Unionist lawmakers yesterday demanded the introduction of a minimum wage and standard working hours, saying protection for workers should be increased as the economy recovers. But the pro-business Liberal Party was not convinced that it would help to improve workers' welfare. On the second day of the Legislative Council debate on Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's policy address, lawmakers representing labour and the grassroots criticised the policy blueprint for lacking measures to help underprivileged groups. Chan Yuen-han and Kwong Chi-kin, of the Federation of Trade Unions, urged the government to establish a minimum wage and criticised it for dragging its heels by saying it should be further discussed. 'If society wants workers to have unacceptably low wages which would lead to more social security spending and higher taxes, then I have nothing to say,' Mr Kwong said. Lau Chin-shek, of the Confederation of Trade Unions, said there should be standard working hours and a five-day working week. Democrat legislator Andrew Cheng Kar-foo urged the government to legislate on maximum working hours. This was a less controversial issue than minimum wages and was in the interests of the business sector, he added. 'We can wait no longer. Neglecting that will only widen the wealth gap between the rich and poor and worsen the health of the working class,' Mr Cheng said. But Liberal Party leader James Tien Pei-chun warned that setting a minimum wage would further lower salaries, while fellow party member Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen said people should work hard to achieve success. Some lawmakers called for a law to maintain fair competition. Financial Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen said Hong Kong had to remain flexible to stay competitive, but the economic outlook this year was improving. He admitted the unemployment rate was still high, but said the government had already created many job opportunities.