More views sought on standard working hours

Welfare minister hopes to get more feedback from union and bosses on working week

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 November, 2012, 8:40am

The administration is seeking more feedback from employers and unions on its scheme to create standard working hours, sending its key study report to the Labour Advisory Board next week, the welfare secretary said yesterday.

Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said he hoped the report would stimulate an "in-depth and informed" discussion. "Regarding the issue of standard working hours, the stance of the government is open."

The report set out a wealth of information on the issue, including the experience in other countries and jurisdictions, with standardising working hours, he said.

But at least one labour board member predicted stiff resistance from employers' representatives. Leung Chau-ting, who represents employee unions on the board, said: "I think the [board] meeting on Monday will end in a seesaw struggle - as the employer representatives must oppose it."

Another board member, Stanley Lau Chin-ho, who represents major employer associations, said the business sector took the report very seriously, and hoped it would explain the scheme's impact on the sector.

The report will be submitted to the Legislative Council's panel on manpower next month.

Pan-democrats have called for a 40- to 44-hour working week, with employees getting their usual wage plus 50 per cent more for longer hours.

On Thursday, seven of the city's biggest business chambers sent a rare joint letter to the government, warning that legislating standard working hours would hurt the city's commercial environment.

Their letter did not directly say the chambers oppose such a law, but warns it would be detrimental to the city's steady and robust economic growth.

Cheung said the concerns of the employer unions and business chambers were completely understandable.

Labour Party lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan said the joint letter had created "tangible pressure" on the government to abandon the policy. He was worried the government may back down in the face of mounting opposition from the business sector.