A property management company has sacked around 200 security guards in what a trade union says is an attempt to cut its wage costs ahead of the minimum wage law.
They were sacked by New City Property Management and rehired yesterday by Lion Security, a contracting-out company. The guards will be rehired a month from now in what New City says is an attempt to conform with the new wage law.
Although the guards will get their jobs back, the Buildings Management and Security Workers General Union said the aim was to reduce long-service payments to which they may be entitled in future.
'The company is very mean. It is trying to exploit every opportunity to save money,' said Lee Lok-ting, the union's organising secretary, adding that the union feared other employers might use the same tactic.
Lee said guards were entitled to long-service payments when their services were terminated after serving an employer continuously for at least five years. Payment was calculated according to a worker's salary in the last month of employment, multiplied by his or her years of service.
'When the minimum wage is adopted, a security guard's salary will be increased, so the long-term payment will be increased as well. While the company will rehire them later, it means the worker's years of service have been reduced to zero.'
Lee said a New City security guard earned about HK$22.50 an hour, or HK$7,020 a month, for working 12 hours a day, 26 days a month. With the minimum hourly wage of HK$28, this will rise to HK$8,736.
'It will mean a big rise in the long-service payment, but then should a company be allowed to deprive workers in such a way? Such practice is not confined to this company; there are more companies planning to do so later,' Lee said.
New City administrative manager Eva Yeung denied the company was exploiting its workers. They were paid according to a management fee charged by New City to a property owners' corporation, which in turn was based on the guards' old pay.
'With the minimum wage, we have to prepare more money for workers' long-service payments based on the higher salary, so we have to renew terms with owners' corporations and security guards,' she said, adding that the company would pay the 200 workers 'a few million Hong Kong dollars' for long service under the old wage regime.
Yeung said the guards had been adequately briefed about the plan.
The Labour Department said it had not received any complaints and urged any workers with queries to contact it.