Government will review decision over overtime wages for Hong Kong’s low-paid, says labour chief

Former administration proposed change in June, but minister says he hopes to review it before it goes to Legco

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 July, 2017, 8:08pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 July, 2017, 10:25pm

The welfare and labour minister said the government would review the previous administration’s decision on overtime wages for the low-paid, but added that the chance to reopen the public discussion in a short period of time is slim.

Law Chi-kwong said his department would also look into the issue of some of the city’s poorest having to negotiate terms with their bosses, which unions highlighted as a consequence of the standard working hours policy.

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On June 13, the Executive Council proposed forcing bosses to pay workers overtime wages at rates no less than their regular salaries only if they earn HK$11,000 or less per month. Leung Chun-ying, then chief executive, said he hoped a bill would be ready for the Legislative Council by the second half of 2018, for implementation by the end of 2020 or early 2021.

Speaking on a radio show on Saturday morning, Law said he would exercise caution on the issue, given the wide implications of a changing labour market.

“Even though the previous administration had done a lot of consultation, there was little consensus especially from the labour sector,” Law said. “Yet the impact that standard working hours will bring to the system is even bigger than the minimum wage introduced in 2011.”

Addressing another long-running local labour policy headache, Law said the new government was willing to take more responsibility for removing the MPF offset mechanism, under which employers can dip into workers’ pension funds for severance and long-service payments. He said he hoped the issue could be resolved by the end of the year.

Law, a former and founding member of the Democratic Party, said he hoped the dispute over the disqualification of four Legco members for incorrect oath-taking would not affect funding applications for livelihood matters.

“I hope everyone can consider livelihood issues from the point of view of the people’s rice bowls and the greater good of the community,” he said.