Councillor's helper grateful for extra cash
Fanny W. Y. Fung
Sham Shuk-ching will get a pay rise of HK$492 next month on top of her salary of HK$6,200 thanks to the minimum wage legislation.
At present, Sham, 34, works eight hours a day from Monday to Friday and four hours on alternative Saturdays as an assistant to Tuen Mun district councillor So Shiu-shing.
Together with a colleague, she helps So represent the Sham Shing constituency, which has about 20,000 residents.
On a recent Saturday at the Sham Shing Estate office, she could be seen managing documents on a computer, searching for council papers, files and pictures for her boss, answering residents questions and cleaning.
Sometimes Sham attends nighttime meetings with residents and corporate owners after the tenants have finished work.
As neither she nor her boss knew whether her pay would be in line with the minimum wage law, Sham called the Labour Department to check. They calculated it would be safest to raise her salary to HK$6,692, meaning her hourly rate would not fall under HK$28 even after including lunch breaks and holidays.
'Of course, I am happy to get a pay rise and I appreciate the minimum wage law's intention to protect employees, but I think the legislation has not made it clear whether lunch hours and rest days should be paid,' Sham said.
After finishing her secondary education, she worked at a fast food chain for some years and has been at So's office for the past five years.
The district councillor said he would pay his assistants the extra money from his own pocket after the minimum wage law is implemented, because the sum is not covered by government funding for district councillor offices.
His office gets a monthly HK$23,142 operation allowance, which covers the HK$5,000 rent, electricity, water, telephone, internet, staff salaries and their Mandatory Provident Fund contribution as well as other matters such as publicity.
Another HK$4,260 covers sundry expenses such as newspapers, stationery and office cleaning.
'The government has announced it will subsidise the rest day payments for its contract workers, but it doesn't give us any money. I am not fighting for it but I don't want to be a heartless employer either. I'll just pay the money myself,' So said.