Skinflint employers that underpay their staff will in future have less chance of gaining one of the 'caring company' awards doled out annually by the city's social workers. The Hong Kong Council Of Social Service says that after the introduction of a statutory minimum wage next year, pay levels will be a criterion for the award. The council said this as it gave the 'most caring company award' for this year to Cathay Pacific Airways, which is caught in a row with its flight attendants over their pay and fringe benefits. The council says that while the awards aim to encourage good corporate citizenship, it does not seek to intervene in the awardees' business operations. But the council's chief executive, Christine Fang Meng-sang, said: 'When a statutory minimum wage is imposed, it will become a new criterion in the scheme.' She said the council had proposed a rate of HK$30 an hour back in 2006. 'Taking into account inflation and other factors, it would not be unreasonable for the rate to be set at HK$33 an hour now,' she said. A record 2,082 firms were named caring companies this year. The scheme was launched in 2002 to honour organisations for their care for the community, employees, and the environment. Cathay Pacific won the 'total caring award' for its overall fulfilment of social responsibility in various aspects. IT services company Intimex Business Solution and grill restaurant Morton's of Chicago, The Steakhouse, also won total caring awards in the category of small and medium-sized enterprises. More than 200 people protested outside the ceremony.