• Thu
  • Dec 18, 2014
  • Updated: 1:56pm
NewsHong Kong

Introducing working hours law for Hong Kong ‘would face uphill battle’

Employers shout down proponents of move at public consultation, showing strength of feeling

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 July, 2014, 4:41am
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 July, 2014, 6:01pm

Members of a committee gathering the public's views on a possible law to put in place standard working hours in Hong Kong say the attitudes of employers during a recent public-engagement exercise show how difficult it would be to pass such a bill.

The committee members said company bosses who attended meetings on the issue brought supporters and both shouted down labour representatives trying to presents their opinions.

The public-engagement exercise ends today after 37 consultations and rounds of talks organised by the Standard Working Hours Committee.

Trade unionist Chau Siu-chung, one of 23 members of the committee, recalled that in one recent consultation with representatives from the transport trade, about 90 per cent of those present were employers.

"When the workers were talking, the employers were shouting 'boo'. This was not fair for the workers who wanted to make their voices heard," said Chau, who is the treasurer of the Federation of Hong Kong and Kowloon Labour Unions.

He said he was concerned that because so many people at the sessions loudly opposed standard working hours, the consultancy running the exercise might conclude this was "mainstream opinion".

Fellow committee member Lee Tak-ming said some bosses brought their staff to the consultation to boost the numbers appearing to oppose the law.

"After the introduction of the statutory minimum wage, employers are now firmly against another law that may harm business," said Lee, who is general secretary of the Hong Kong and Kowloon Trades Union Council.

Unions have been calling for a standard working week of 44 hours with wages of time-and-a-half for any hours worked in excess of this. But employers say it is not practical to set one standard for all jobs.

The government estimated in 2012 that employers would need to pay up to HK$55.2 billion a year more in wages if standard working hours were introduced.

The Standard Working Hours Committee was established last year with a three-year term. It is conducting a survey of 10,000 employees about their working hours. It is expected to put forward proposals for a public consultation in the second quarter of next year.

According to Census and Statistics Department figures for May to June last year, the median working week for men is 48 hours, and for women is 44.3. The median figure for workers at Chinese restaurants was 58.2.

Committee member Stanley Lau Chin-ho, chairman of the Federation of Hong Kong Industries, said that as a member he wasn't supposed to take a stance.

"But some business groups have said that this should not be legislated because it could harm the economy," he said.

After attending many consultation sessions, Lau said he found some workers wanted standard working hours because they wanted more time with family.

He therefore suggested introducing a law on maximum working hours instead, which would mean employers could not ask their staff to work beyond a certain number of hours.



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This article is now closed to comments

Instead of having a standard working hours, I think what is more practical is to have a "maximum working hours" per week. This would be more flexible and enable both employers and employees to work out what best suits them. For example, if you fix the maximum working hours at say 50 per week, then employers and employees should have the opportunity to decide how best to satisfy that 50 hours. Some employees may choose to work 12 or 13 hours a day for 4 consecutive days so that they can have the Friday off and enjoy a long weekend.
"But employers say it is not practical to set one standard for all jobs."
Well, the rest of the developed world can manage to do it, so what is so special about Hong Kong that it can't be done here? Except, of course, for the greed of employers.
Employers who "allow" or compel workers to work 12 hour shifts six days per week are no better than slave drivers. It is a national disgrace to China that this is still permitted to occur in Hong Kong.
The Mainland has laws which forbid employees' working hours including overtime from exceeding an average of 66.5 hours per week. There is flexibility on the occasional length of the working day provided the overall monthly accumulated working hours does not exceed this averaged weekly maximum; however the workday ( including overtime) must never exceed 11 hours.
If Hong Konger employers and employees resent interference in domestic affairs they should act now, do the right thing and cut the abominable working conditions still permitted here . If they don't , 'interference' is fully warranted.
This is more important than any other discussion for Hong Kong's future. Unfair labor practices here are rampant and hit the hardest working here. Always denied by the people in control or who have vested interests and work against fairness in hiring, workers benefits and fair play.
Of course the Government doesn't want standard working hours! Unlike the rest of the city, if there are standard working hours, they will have to start working longer hours!
Ahhhh, I fell into a time portal and now i'm in the 19th century!
Maximum working hours for domestic workers with a minimum hourly rate for overtime is urgently needed to prevent what amounts to modern-day slavery.
Agree, but set the maximum at 40 hours.
A so called first world country with third world labor laws.
A developed country but with third world wages.
A developed country but with third world housing for the poor.
So why choose to live here? Why don't you consider returning to your first world country with third world unemployment rate?



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