Watsons Water

Self-employment offer angers Watsons Water delivery workers

Company offer for employees to resign and return on independent contract angers the union

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 January, 2013, 4:20am

The union representing Watsons Water delivery workers says it will consider strike action if the company does not withdraw a plan which workers fear will mean they lose more than they gain in the long run.

General secretary Wong Yu-loy of the Hong Kong A.S. Watson & Company Limited Employees Union made the comment as he led about 40 members in a protest outside the company's Tai Po warehouse yesterday.

Wong said the company had issued a notice on December 21 to encourage its delivery workers to join a programme under which they would become self-employed and form their own delivery teams.

Under the voluntary plan, the staff would resign from the company, form teams of at least four - one driver and three workers - and sign delivery contracts with Watsons Water.

Wong said that although staff might be able to make a few thousand dollars more a month in this way, they stood to lose more than that in the long run.

For example the company would not contribute to the workers' Mandatory Provident Fund accounts and no medical insurance would be provided.

"The company may also be using this scheme to save costs. For example, it will be able to save more than HK$10,000 a month on fuel for one truck," Wong said, adding it was difficult to calculate how much money the company would save overall.

A delivery worker makes about HK$13,000 a month at present.

Wong said applications for the new scheme were now being accepted and about seven workers had applied.

If the company insisted on pressing ahead with the scheme, Wong said the union might consider a strike.

A spokeswoman for Watsons Water said the scheme was being introduced because the workers had expressed an interest, and participation was voluntary. Those taking part would be given a two-year contract guaranteeing them work.

Asked whether the company would withdraw the scheme because of the strike threat, she said she did not see the need to do so as it was voluntary.

The delivery workers went on strike for 2 ½ days last July, returning to work only after the company promised to address manpower shortages and its increased reliance on outsourcing.