Leung Chun-ying has no plans to speed up a review of the minimum wage and 'has not thought about' workers' calls to raise the pay level in the light of inflation, a unionist lawmaker cited the chief executive-elect as saying.
Leung's lack of enthusiasm for improving the labour rights of the working class was a letdown, Labour Party chairman Lee Cheuk-yan said on radio yesterday.
Lee spoke of Leung's comments, allegedly made at a meeting with pan-democrats on Monday, as thousands of Hongkongers marked Labour Day by marching for better working conditions. At the top of their wish list were an increase in the hourly minimum wage from HK$28 to HK$33 and capped working hours.
The Minimum Wage Commission, which includes employer and union representatives, began reviewing the statutory wage last month. It is inviting public views and will report at the end of October - two years after the rate of HK$28 was set.
Lee is calling for a faster review to help workers deal with high inflation and an uncertain global economic outlook. But at the meeting, he said, Leung said he did not intend to hasten the work of the task force.
'I asked C. Y. whether he would do it immediately after he took office [on July 1], since we need to raise pay levels now. What I find a bit disappointing is that he said he hadn't thought about it,' Lee said, noting that Leung had the discretion to quicken the process.
Leung also said he had not thought about demands to raise the statutory holiday allowance to 17 days per year, Lee said. 'I am a bit disappointed, because he had said [during campaign] that he cared about the livelihoods of the grass roots.'
All employees are entitled to 12 public holidays, though employers can grant a further five days per year.
The chief executive-elect's office would not confirm whether Leung had made the points Lee cited, but said he would assess the minimum wage after he assumed office. Leung 'has not had the time to give the matter [of statutory holidays] further thought since the election', it said.
Lee told the South China Morning Post that Leung seemed uncertain when asked about legislating standard working hours. 'He asked us to look at his campaign manifesto.' The manifesto claims Leung will set up a task force to study the issue.
The Federation of Trade Unions said 5,000 people marched yesterday from Sham Shui Po to Yau Ma Tei, while the Confederation of Trade Unions said 3,200 turned up for its march from Victoria Park to the government headquarters in Admiralty. The police put attendance at the FTU rally at 2,400 and the CTU's at 2,700. Firefighters, the Neighbourhood and Worker's Service Centre and a workers' federation also staged protests.
Accountant Alexander Chan Hing-sang, 44, said he had so little time for his two sons that the oldest, now four years old, did not recognise him when he returned home early from work one day two years ago.
'I once returned home at 7pm and my elder son, then two, called me 'uncle',' Chan recalled. 'I worked so hard ... to raise him in a good environment, but I had no time for him.'
He said he had worked in a bank for 20 years, for 90 to 100 hours a week, before changing jobs four years ago. At times, he still worked until as late as 11pm, he said.
FTU chairman Stanley Ng Chau-pei said the minimum wage had not caused massive lay-offs or hindered economic development in the past year, as many critics had predicted.