A union has called on the government to set the statutory minimum wage at HK$33 after a survey found the hourly pay of workers at seven local fast food chains was as low as HK$18.94. Michael Chan Yue-kwong, executive chairman of Cafe de Coral fast food chain and a member of the Provisional Minimum Wage Commission, offered his staff an hourly pay rate of HK$20.24, just HK$1.30 more than KFC, which was the company with the lowest salary for the third time in the annual study. The Catering and Hotels Industries Employees General Union study found that Fairwood came next with an hourly rate of HK$19.78. The hourly pay rate of HK$18.94 means a worker at KFC only earns HK$3,940 a month based on an eight-hour shift with a six-day work week. A dozen union officials demonstrated at a KFC outlet in Yau Ma Tei yesterday and chanted slogans at staff. One protester dressed as a chicken threw bones. 'Eat chicken bones! Your hourly rate is not even enough to buy the cheapest meal, which costs more than HK$20!' the protester said. Other fast food chains surveyed were McDonald's, Maxim's MX, Yoshinoya and Pizza Hut, and they offered an hourly rate of between HK$20.29 and HK$23.71. The union phoned various outlets of the seven food chains between September and December last year, and collected data on the hourly wages of 409 jobs. The findings also showed that the hourly rate was only HK$16 for employees working at the Tuen Mun, Tin Shui Wai, Yuen Long and Sheung Shui outlets of KFC. 'Though the hourly rate is higher in other outlets, workers still prefer to stay in these districts. An employee working on Hong Kong Island might get HK$2 more for each hour, but he has to spend a lot of money and time on commuting. So these workers have to stay in these outlets even when the pay is lower,' union president Alex Lee Wang-lung said. 'Many fast food chains have more business amid the economic downturn. Cafe de Coral, for example, enjoyed profits of about HK$400 million in 2008 - up 31 per cent compared with 2007. 'The chairman of Cafe de Coral, Chan Yue-kwong, is a member of the Provisional Minimum Wage Commission, but his workers are poorly paid for their hard work.' The union estimates that the seven chains employ about 30,000 workers in Hong Kong. 'We demand that the government set the minimum wage level at HK$33 so workers can make enough money to feed themselves and their families. With the present hourly rates, most of these workers cannot even buy a meal at these restaurants,' Mr Lee said. KFC said it planned to review the salary and benefits for its staff this year, and an adjustment had been made first on employees in the take-away section, whose hourly rate was now HK$31. 'But we have to temporarily suspend making salary and benefit adjustments due to the economic downturn in order to avoid pay cuts and layoffs. We will closely monitor the market situation and carry out wage adjustment plans when the economy recovers,' KFC said. Pizza Hut said the hourly pay rate of individual employees was determined by their experience, and reviews were done regularly to ensure it was aligned with market conditions. Yoshinoya said: 'Our current salary scheme falls within the market range of the industry and we shall continue to review and, if necessary, adjust it to be in line with market conditions, industry benchmarks and operational needs.' McDonald's said it had adjusted the starting wage of frontline staff in the past few years. 'Between 2003 and 2008, it has increased over 60 per cent. In addition, we consider adjusting salary levels of employees every year according to the performance of individual employees and market conditions.' Cafe de Coral, Fairwood and Maxim's MX did not comment.