Minimum wage law strikes the right balance
I refer to the Monitor column ('Quirk in minimum wage law means HK$28 is really HK$44', October 28) and wish to provide the Labour Department's response to the points raised.
Studies of many jurisdictions implementing a statutory minimum wage indicate that it is a common practice to express this statutory wage as an hourly rate, as it is only fair that employees' pay should be commensurate with the time that they have worked. In addition, an hourly rate can also cater for part-time and casual workers.
In practical terms, this means that employees must be paid no less than the statutory minimum wage on average for all the hours they have worked in a wage period.
It is inevitable that any new legislation will entail a compliance cost for the relevant stakeholders. To minimise the compliance cost for employers, the Minimum Wage Ordinance builds on, and is consistent with the objectives of, current labour laws including the Employment Ordinance. Like this ordinance, the newly enacted Minimum Wage Ordinance does not regulate whether rest days and meal breaks are paid or not. Employers and employees are free to agree on these terms of employment. Hence, in the example of the monthly pay of HK$6,000 cited in the column, whether or not the wages of HK$6,000 cover 22 working days or 30 calendar days including rest days is subject to the employment contract.
We appreciate that remuneration on a monthly basis is a common practice and, because of this, some employers and employees do not see the need to state explicitly in their employment contracts whether rest days or meal breaks are remunerated.
However, with the implementation of the statutory minimum wage, the Labour Department encourages employers and employees to clarify the relevant terms in the employment contracts if there are possible disputes over compliance with a statutory minimum wage.
This applies especially to those positions with monthly wages payable slightly above, at or below the threshold, to be specified in the Ninth Schedule of the Employment Ordinance, since employers will need to record the total number of hours worked in respect of those employees whose monthly wages payable is below this threshold.
In the course of preparing the Minimum Wage Bill, the Labour Department conducted an intensive and extensive engagement and consultation process with various stakeholders including employers' associations, trade unions and human resources practitioners. The Bills Committee of the Legislative Council examined the bill in detail and received various deputations and submissions.
The consultation and legislative process have enabled us to take into account the employment patterns of employees in different trades and industries in order to ensure that the statutory minimum wage regime is feasible and strikes a reasonable balance between the interests of employers and employees.
We will launch a publicity and promotional campaign on the statutory minimum wage requirements, and issue guidelines with illustrative examples for reference by employers and employees on the application of the Minimum Wage Ordinance as soon as practicable.
Alan Wong, for commissioner for labour
Positive about policy address
This year's policy address gave priority to livelihood issues.
This was something that was rare.
Some of the policies outlined will give welfare to people in need.
The address has come in for criticism because some people think it will be difficult to formulate policies.
However, I think there are aspects of the address which are quite good. For example, increasing the amount given under the school textbook assistance scheme will be able to help students in need.
Also, having a transport support scheme will cut back on employees' travelling expenses. I think, overall, Hong Kong people have benefited from this year's policy address.
Tse Kit-fan, Kwun Tong
Poppy sales are important
Remembrance Day is approaching, and I am pleased to see from viewing British television that poppies are already being worn by many people in Britain.
I wonder if we will be able to buy poppies on the streets of Hong Kong this year.
If not, it will be a shame, but at least I hope that they will be on sale somewhere on Kowloon side. The British Legion's website still shows pictures of poppy sellers on the streets.
Any publicity in connection with the charity involved, the Hong Kong British Legion, must emphasise that all proceeds are for the sole benefit of Hong Kong residents.
I worry that the name, including the word British, may discourage people from contributing.
John Wilson, Yau Ma Tei
Eating ban rule is correct
The MTR Corporation's ban on eating and drinking in its paid areas cannot be seen as being unethical or an infringement of someone's fundamental right to eat and drink.
When passengers take the MTR, they enter into an implicit contract with it and are obliged to follow its rules, which include refraining from eating and drinking in its paid areas. Those who regard an MTR journey as a form of gastronomic purgatory can easily pacify their stomachs before or after their ordeals.
On the other hand, how much incentive does the MTR give riders to leave their appetites at the turnstiles when it has allowed so many shops selling instant edibles to proliferate in its stations in recent years?
What is the point of having a rule if you are going to provide would-be violators with what they need to flaunt it?
Chohong Choi, Kwun Tong
Bullying tactics will not work
Other countries have been trying to bully China.
This has particularly been the case with disputes over the Nobel Peace Prize and Diaoyu Islands. It is easy to see some nations bullying our mother country.
They are taking every advantage to do this and in the process are being patronising.
I think this comes from jealousy and they are attempting to compromise our competitiveness and to exacerbate the tensions between Japan and China.
However, gone are the days when China was an impotent country.
Today, the country has a booming economy, a strong military and advanced technology.
No one is in a position to threaten us.
If they have a poor relationship with China, they will end up regretting that.
By making a concerted effort to stand up to the bullying tactics, I believe that China will become stronger.
Andrew Li, Ma On Shan
No political progress
I refer to the letter by Terry Scott ('Liu should be a free man', October 20).
In a nation where there are harsh restrictions imposed on freedom of speech, this is a sign of a weak, not a strong or promising government.
The Chinese Communist Party exercises controls over people's opinions through various kinds of censorship.
This shows that the party lacks confidence in its own rule and ideology, as it is not willing to let its shortcomings be revealed.
This means that democratic development in China is at a standstill.
People are not even allowed to speak up in their own interests, so how can the country move forward towards democracy?
China has experienced extraordinary economic growth.
However, it is unlikely to emerge as the world's greatest power without there being an evolutionary change in the country's political system.
H. Yiu, Sha Tin
New homes plan is flawed
Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen announced the My Home Purchase Plan in his policy address last month.
Under this scheme, 5,000 flats will be built to help people buy their own homes.
The new scheme appears to be better than the Home Ownership Scheme, as the eligibility criteria have been relaxed and one-half of the rent paid will be reimbursed upon the purchase of a home.
That said, the plan is not the perfect antidote to the housing problems that are being experienced by the sandwich class. There are some fundamental defects in the plan.
The first 1,000 flats will not be made available until 2014. Then there will be a further wait for the remaining 4,000 apartments to come on stream.
This total of 5,000 is not enough to meet the needs of the large number of aspiring home owners.
Those who are eligible but cannot get a flat under the scheme will feel they have been unfairly treated.
For those who are lucky enough to get an apartment under the plan, they will be able to decide after five years to buy the flat or to can choose another plan at prevailing market prices.
However, house prices just keep going up.
By the time applicants feel they have enough money to buy a flat, prices will be sky high and it will prove more difficult to buy a home.
A badly thought-out and impractical plan will bring few benefits to those in need and will also place an undue burden on Hong Kong taxpayers.
Lam Chak-hong, Tin Shui Wai