Letters to the Editor, August 15, 2014
Lower wage offer will best suit everyone
There is an ongoing debate on the statutory hourly minimum wage, with some unionists wanting it increased from the current HK$30 to just under HK$40.
I think they would be better advised to accept the lower recommendation of the business sector, which says that it would accept an increase of 6.66 per cent to HK$32.
A rise to about HK$40 would impose a huge financial burden on those who had to pay it. It is estimated that even adding just HK$3 to hourly rates would cost the city's employers HK$1.4 billion. So how much more would it be if the new rate was close to HK$40?
The unions should be taking into consideration the potential burden for companies and the government. If unionists were willing to seek a compromise between the two main stakeholders, I think they would agree that HK$32 is a fairer sum.
A new level of about HK$40 - a 33.3 per cent rise - could actually run some businesses into the ground, including shops which are already having to cope with skyrocketing rents.
Many of those left would still struggle to survive and remain competitive.
Companies would have to raise prices to pay the wages bill and the problem we already have with inflation would become even more serious.
I do accept that it should be raised, because that can help the underprivileged in our society. But too high an increase will not help these employees, or society as a whole. If inflation rises, then people on low incomes will suffer the most.
A minimum wage on its own will not eradicate inflation. The government needs to find ways to create more job opportunities so that more people can get work and eventually free themselves from the poverty trap.
When making decisions about any government policy, including the statutory minimum wage, there must be trade-offs, and the needs and views of all stakeholders, including society, must be taken into account.
Emily Ho, Sha Tin
Working hourslaw requires further talks
It is still not clear if the government will enact standard-working-hours legislation. I do hope such a law will eventually come into force, but not in the near future.
A public-engagement exercise ended last month and it emerged that the prospects of having a law are not good. No concrete suggestions emerged from the exercise.
I am not surprised, given the complexity of this issue. For example, how do you define standard working hours when there are so many different types of jobs. Many exemptions would be needed, for example, for pilots, doctors and members of the disciplined services.
There is also the possibility that companies facing standard hours regulations would reduce the wages of staff. Also, people working beyond their standard hours would presumably be paid overtime, which would be very expensive and would meet with a great deal of opposition from employers.
Employers represent the main opposition to any bill becoming law.
During the public-engagement exercise they brought their supporters to meetings to shout down labour representatives who were trying to speak in support of a law.
It would certainly lead to higher operating costs for companies. The government estimated in 2012 that employers would have to pay up to HK$55.2 billion a year more in wages if the law was implemented. Obviously this would put immense pressure on the city's businesses and some might be forced to close down.
Hong Kong has a flexible labour market. This attracts foreign investors, but a standard working hours act could put some of them off coming here and adversely affect the city's competitiveness.
However, I do understand the argument of supporters of legislation that it is important to ensure that employees have the right work-life balance.
Clearly the issues are complex. There is likely to be a public consultation exercise and hopefully a consensus can be reached.
Demi Cham, Tai Wai
Many failing to treat domestic helpers fairly
That some maids from Bangladesh and Myanmar are returning home only months after arriving, aggravating a shortage of domestic helpers, reflects also the appalling expectations placed upon them, and on the much larger Philippine foreign domestic helper community.
It is easy for those of us who employ foreign domestic helpers to criticise their job ability, but spend little time looking at how we, as supposedly responsible employers, treat them.
It is time for the government to look at the requirements of those who seek to employ domestic help.
If an apartment is below a certain size, for example, 1,000square foot, or if any sized apartment cannot offer separate living quarters for a domestic helper, then that person cannot be permitted to employ a helper.
I am disheartened to hear of helpers being forced to sleep inside cupboards, or on towels on kitchen floors.
In one case I heard of, the maid was forced to clean and shower at the local community centre because her employers' 450 square foot apartment had only one bathroom and they would not let her use it.
New controls implemented by the government are required. A person cannot justify the employment of a maid simply because they don't like cleaning their own toilet.
All domestic helpers are human and many are proud wage earners for their families.
They deserve respect and it is time to stop the basic slavery many Hong Kong families make them endure.
Mark Peaker, The Peak
Action needed to stop deaths from speeding
I think the Transport Department should install speed cameras and rumble strips, and that there must be more frequent police patrols on South Lantau Road.
These are things that residents and concern groups have been demanding for more than a year.
However, I do not believe that officials will listen to us and introduce such measures.
Where I live, just outside Pui O village, the road makes a sharp double bend. It is quite terrifying to see the speed of cars, buses, taxis and even bikes, coming down the hill and around these bends into the village, which has a 30km/h speed limit. This puts everyone at risk.
There have been deaths on South Lantau Road in the past as a result of the careless and inconsiderate speeding of some drivers.
Without action being taken, there might well be more.
O. Scherer, Lantau
Good service for customers often forgotten
I wonder who your readers would vote for as the worst customer service company in Hong Kong. After my experiences, I think HSBC and PCCW are in a race for first place.
With PCCW, I made many phone calls, had two service visits (hours late), and the result was still no working telephone. How did it try and resolve this? Firstly by trying to sell me an upgraded phone service, and then by promising to send a form by snail mail. So much for our technology champion.
With HSBC, I was trying to open a new business account. I spoke to the hotline, and received a list of required documents. I called again to make an appointment. The person promised to send a confirmation email, but didn't.
I went to the appointment to discover I had to sign a new United States-required form, which the bank did not have and refused to download. Its excuse was that to download a form would constitute financial advice. The result was that they could do nothing. They did not tell me the new form was needed before I went there. So I ended up with no account and had wasted a lot of time.
If they cared about customers, these companies could have turned a problem into a service opportunity.
PCCW could have offered a wireless phone on loan for the days it took to fix its problem; HSBC could have provided a simple PC and printer for customer use. But they prefer process to pleasing people.
It is hard to see a good future for Hong Kong's service industries when these flagship companies set such poor examples.
Neil David Elias, Tai Po
City must be on its guard against Ebola
The Ebola epidemic has now become a worldwide problem.
The World Health Organisation has recognised this, saying that it is now an international public health emergency needing a coordinated global response
Although the risk in Hong Kong for now is minimal, our hospitals are on high alert.
Anyone arriving from one of the African countries where there has been an outbreak, and who is suspected of having the deadly virus, will go into quarantine.
This is obviously a horrific disease given that that there is no known cure.
The Immigration Department should have much stricter guidelines regarding people arriving here from these countries. All of them should be given a full health check on arrival.
Also, the Security Bureau should issue a black outbound travel alert - that is, to avoid all travel - for all the affected countries in West Africa: Hong Kong citizens should be urged not to go there unless it is urgent.
Natalie Chan, Yau Yat Chuen