Union demands government approves statutory 17 public holidays to all Hong Kong workers

Confederation says every worker should enjoy 17 statutory holidays

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 April, 2014, 5:08pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 April, 2014, 2:51am

Unionists are urging the government to increase the number of statutory holidays in Hong Kong to 17, so all workers would be entitled to every public holiday.

As many in the city began a four-day weekend to mark Easter yesterday, the Confederation of Trade Unions protested outside government headquarters in Tamar, Admiralty to demand that every Hong Kong worker be allowed the same privilege.

The entire 3.7 million-strong workforce in the city receives 12 statutory public holidays by law, but it is up to employers to decide whether they will give workers five other "bank holidays", including Good Friday and Easter Monday.

The confederation said nearly two million ordinary workers enjoyed just 19 days of leave in a year, which included the statutory holidays and the seven days of annual leave they are entitled to by law.

About 20 members of the confederation chanted "Give Me Five" and held a banner complaining of the "unfair holiday arrangement" to press home their demands.

The confederation said most of the workers affected were blue-collar workers who were not entitled to take Easter off or enjoy a break for Christmas.

The government's policy on holidays discriminated against blue-collar workers, said the confederation, which estimated that the cost to increase the number of statutory holidays to 17 would be minimal, and would increase the cost of employing a worker by only about 0.3 per cent.

"The government keeps saying it's studying the issue, but three years have gone by, and there's been no progress at all," the confederation said in a statement. "It's just dragging its feet."

Statutory public holidays were first introduced in 1962 after the passage of the Industrial Employment (Holidays with Pay and Sickness Allowance) Ordinance 1961. There were only six holidays at the time, but the number has doubled over the years.

Despite Hong Kong's economic clout, its workers enjoy less favourable conditions than those in many advanced economies in the West, with critics having voiced concerns about the impact of long working hours on employees' work-life balance and families.

In Britain, employers must give their employees at least 28 days' leave a year and workers in some other European countries get more than 30 days off.

The government introduced minimum wage laws in 2011 to protect low-skilled workers but activists have urged the government to take a further step by introducing standard working hours, despite strong opposition from the business sector.

The administration launched a consultation exercise on the issue of standard working hours in January.

In his election manifesto, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying cited "family friendly measures" as one set of policies to help build a sustainable society.