A bill to introduce a minimum wage covering all workers will be presented to the Legislative Council, but the level may be too low to cover a worker's family expenses and it may not come until 2010. Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen admitted the voluntary 'wage protection movement' for cleaners and security guards, introduced two years ago to forestall demands for minimum-wage legislation, had failed. He had said when he introduced the scheme that if it did not improve the lot of the two lowest-paid groups, a law would be introduced. Labour Department figures show just 52 per cent of cleaners and security guards are earning more than the median wage for their jobs, compared with 44 per cent two years ago. 'There are indeed limits in promoting wage protection through voluntary participation,' Mr Tsang said. 'I have unequivocally pledged to introduce legislation on a statutory minimum wage for cleaning workers and security guards should the [voluntary movement] fail. To honour this pledge, the government will now proceed with the legislative work.' The chief executive said an across-the-board minimum wage should protect workers against exploitation and prevent the loss of low-paid jobs. But he was quick to play down expectations a high minimum wage would be set. 'Wages are returns for employees' labour. As family needs vary, the minimum wage may not be sufficient to cover family expenses of all employees. Employees in need can obtain assistance under the current social security system,' Mr Tsang said. An advisory Minimum Wage Commission will study how much the minimum wage should be and the mechanism for reviewing it. Its members will include labour and employer representatives, academics and officials. Secretary for Labour and Welfare Matthew Cheung Kin-chung hoped the committee would make an initial suggestion about the pay level by early 2010. The chairman of the Federation of Hong Kong Industries, Clement Chen Cheng-jen, had reservations about a minimum wage. It would ruin the city's free economy and rob employers of flexibility, he said. 'It is not a good policy for helping vulnerable groups escape poverty. Instead, it will create unemployment and slow down Hong Kong's development,' he said. The vice-chairman of the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce, Ho Sai-chu, who is also an employers' representative on the Labour Advisory Board, warned the wage must not be too high. 'If the minimum wage is set at about HK$6,000 a month, employers will tend to hire single young men only,' he said. Wong Hung, an associate professor at Chinese University, hailed the determination to introduce a minimum wage but was worried how long it would take to enforce. Unionist lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan, who is also general secretary of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, agreed. 'In fact, legislators discussed the legislative framework in the previous session. We hope that we can really enforce it soon.' Ho Wai-chi, director of charity Oxfam Hong Kong, said the government should implement a minimum wage as soon as possible. 'In the wake of turmoil, it is always the low-paid workers who suffer the most. They really need such protection badly,' he said.