Unionist legislators have failed in their attempt to stop employers taking advantage of the Mandatory Provident Fund scheme to cut workers' benefits. Their call was blocked by pro-business legislators. Under the scheme, due to be launched in December, employers and employees both have to contribute five per cent of salaries to the fund. A worker receiving less than $4,000 a month may choose not to contribute. About 14,000 existing retirement programmes are qualified for exemptions. The deadline for exemption application is May 3, but so far less than two per cent of the firms have applied. Legislator Lee Cheuk-yan, of The Frontier, said many companies had tried to shift the burden of their contributions by cutting workers' benefits. Chan Yuen-han, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong, called for a separate old-age welfare scheme because she said the MPF did not cover the jobless or housewives. Bernard Charnwut Chan, who represents the insurance sector, said the scheme was not supposed to cover the full expenses of retirement life. The legislature eventually passed a motion calling for more promotion of the scheme.