With the expected re-election of Donald Tsang Yam-kuen drawing near, unionists are determined to get minimum wage legislation to the top of the agenda in his policy address next Wednesday. But observers say the chief executive is unlikely to make a decision before unions and employers' representatives of the Labour Advisory Board conclude negotiations. Mr Tsang is expected to make people's livelihoods a key point in the policy blueprint for the remaining nine months of his term. He will try to avoid long-term measures to avoid turning the speech into a re-election manifesto. Executive councillor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung said Mr Tsang had already made a breakthrough in putting a minimum wage on the government's agenda. Hong Kong's four major business chambers have decided it will be impossible to impose sanctions on members who do not comply with a charter proposed by employers on a minimum wage. Unionists still want legislation. Despite deadlock over the wage talks, Professor Cheung said Mr Tsang could not set a precedent by overriding the board to impose a labour-related law. There was no guarantee of enough support in the Legislative Council if employers and unions remained divided, he said. Professor Cheung would not comment on whether Mr Tsang had underestimated the difficulties of pushing a minimum wage law. But he said: 'I believe the deadlock will not drag on indefinitely.' Asked if Mr Tsang should impose a law to avoid losing labour votes in his re-election bid, Professor Cheung said: 'Votes should not be the major concern. After all, you never know if you would end up losing business votes from the business sector as a result.' He said one way out would be to appoint a high-level expert commission to study the matter further within six months. Hopes of outlawing low wages ran high after Mr Tsang pledged to look into the minimum wage issue when he lobbied votes from the labour sector during his election campaign last year. He repeatedly warned of the impact on the social security system, saying low wages would drive workers onto the dole and they would become a drain on taxpayers' money. But the political rhetoric has so far failed to forge a consensus on the Labour Advisory Board. Wong Hung, assistant professor of social work at Chinese University, said Mr Tsang had failed to make any impressive achievements in improving people's livelihoods. He said Mr Tsang had distanced himself from political hot potatoes such as the Commission on Poverty. Progress on issues including the anti-race-discrimination law and old-age pension had also stalled. He urged him to intervene in light of the minimum wage deadlock. 'It's not only time to show political will, but also political skill.' He believed the government could propose a watered-down bill on specific trades instead of a minimum wage across the board. 'The minimum wage issues can also be negotiated in connection with other labour issues. It's always a matter of a trade-off between labourers and employers,' he said. The academic said the impasse showed Mr Tsang was still unable to find the tipping point. 'I think he has yet to fully appreciate the politics. He's trying to test which side would give him more support'. Confederation of Trade Unions general secretary and legislator Lee Cheuk-yan said Mr Tsang was worried such a bill would upset the business sector.