The jobs of more than 3,000 catering workers and more than HK$30 million in wages will be at risk if the government does not act quickly, a trade union warned yesterday.
The Labour Department said it was monitoring 22 restaurants at high risk of closure in the coming months, but the Eating Establishment Employees General Union said it had been told of at least 15 more that were paying staff late.
'We have received dozens of complaints about delays in paying wages. We are worried many of the restaurants [concerned] may not be able to survive through the Lunar New Year,' union chairman Yuen Fuk-wo said.
Considering each restaurant employed 80 to 90 staff, each earning about HK$8,000 a month, and that some were not being paid on time, the closure of 35 restaurants could leave their workers HK$30 million out of pocket.
Mr Yuen said 14 of the at-risk restaurants were tenants of The Link and could face big rent increases. A Tsz Wan Shan restaurant faced closure next month, having been told by The Link that its lease would not be renewed, he said.
Mr Yuen said one restaurant chain was facing a rent increase of more than 100 per cent on its premises in Mong Kok.
Union secretary Law Kong-ming said landlords were pushing out some low-end restaurants, even though they were willing to pay higher rents, because owners wanted more 'desirable' occupants to boost the image of their premises.
'Now the economy has revived [after Sars] and they want their benefactors out,' the secretary said.
Legislator Tommy Cheung Yu-yan agreed some landlords were demanding ridiculous rent rises to drive away 'undesirable' tenants.
The union called for the government to consider intervening in restaurants' lease negotiations.