Government hopes guideline will prevent its contractors from abusing employees, yet rules out legislating on the changes Contracted cleaners and watchmen working for the government will be given some wage protection under a new guideline issued yesterday that requires contractors not to pay less than the average market wages. Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa revealed the move during question time at the Legislative Council when lawmaker Li Fung-ying asked if the government would legislate to protect the rights of its contracted unskilled workers. Mr Tung said: 'A new guideline has been issued to all departments, requesting them to follow it in new [government services] contracts. They'll have to follow [it] and stringently enforce it.' A government spokesman later said there was no plan to legislate on maximum work hours and minimum wages. The guideline issued by the Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau tells all bureau directors and controlling officers to adopt a mandatory requirement for tender assessment for new service contracts starting yesterday. It said a tender offer cannot be considered if the monthly wage offered by the tenderer to non-skilled workers to be hired was less than the average monthly wage as stated in the latest quarterly report of the Census and Statistics Department for the relevant industry. Non-skilled workers include cleaners, watchmen and security guards. The department's quarterly report published last December said the average monthly wage for a toilet cleaner who worked nine hours a day and 26 days a month was $4,355. The new guideline states that to be eligible all contractors must also sign written employment contracts specifying the major terms of employment, including wages, working hours and rest days. 'They [controlling officers] shall also specify the provisions on sanctions dealing with breaches of statutory and contractual obligations, for example, the issue of default notices which will attract demerit points and may affect the contractor's eligibility to take part in future tendering activities,' the guideline said. The guideline also requires departments to devise a monitoring mechanism, like regular checking of wage and attendance records and interviews with non-skilled workers. The Housing Department, which was last month revealed to have paid as little as $2,450 a month to its contracted cleaners, said that its tendering committee would be asked to endorse the new guideline. The low wages of the department's cleaners came to light last month when lawmakers passed a non-binding motion for a minimum wage to give some protection to workers. Union legislator Lee Cheuk-yan yesterday welcomed the move, but insisted legislation was the best way to safeguard the rights of all workers in Hong Kong. 'The new guideline only covers new contracts on government outsourced jobs,' Mr Lee said. 'It would take about two years for renewal of existing contracts to cover all workers employed by government contractors.'