Pay-cut victims told to speak out

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 March, 2011, 12:00am

Workers who suffer a pay cut after the statutory minimum wage is introduced from May 1 should seek government help, the labour chief said as a dispute continued over payment for lunch breaks and rest days.

The intention of the HK$28-an-hour pay floor was to protect grass-roots workers from receiving excessively low wages, Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said.

'In the process, if working hours remain unchanged, it's only logical and reasonable for the workers to be paid at least not less, if not more, than before. This is really a common sense situation,' he said.

'So, if any employees feel aggrieved, I would encourage them to come forward to the Labour Department. We will do our best to help them to make sure their interests are not compromised.'

Mutual understanding and frank exchanges were vital.

'But small employers - and in particular, we have got a lot of owners' corporations in old tenement buildings in old districts - may have problems financially. Then, of course, they should talk frankly, communicate frankly on lawful, reasonable grounds with employees,' Cheung said.

As an employer of thousands of outsourced workers - such as cleaners and security guards - hired by its contractors, Cheung said the government was reviewing the problem of rest days and meal break payments.

'We have two principles. First, we must abide by the law. Second, we should respect the spirit of contract agreements. I understand that contract-out companies are worried and we will offer them a resolution as soon as possible.'

Unionist legislator Lee Cheuk-yan demanded that the government act quickly. 'These companies may force workers to sign a contract where rest days and meal breaks are without payment before the government offers any solution

'The government should take the lead and become a role model.'