A row over legislating standard working hours continues unabated as employer and labour representatives on a government-appointed committee drift further apart, with no compromise in sight after two years of discussion. Six of the 12 labour representatives threatened to quit the 24-strong standard working hours committee last week, as frustrations ran high over what they saw as committee chairman Dr Leong Che-hung's pro-employer stance. READ MORE: For law on working hours, the devil is in the details Secretary for Labour and Welfare Matthew Cheung Kin-chung weighed in yesterday, urging them to stay on. He called it a "step forward" for the committee to propose in March regulating working hours through job contracts - though labour representatives had rejected the idea as failing to protect workers' rights. "The committee has done a lot of work [in the past two years]. We've come to the stage where we need to decide which path to take and what consultation to conduct, and this will need a bit of time," Cheung said. "Having reached this critical moment, everyone should carry on at the discussion table." The minister spoke hours after two of the labour representatives stepped up pressure on the government to drop the discussion on contract-based hours. The pair went on different media platforms to lash out at the committee's slow progress and pro-employer attitude. Federation of Trade Unions chairman Stanley Ng Chau-pei said the employer representatives would not budge and allowed little room for discussion. The FTU counts on its pledge to standardise working hours as a way to win the hearts of grass-roots voters. But the federation is not alone in having made the ambitious vow. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying declared he would regulate standard working hours in his manifesto in 2012. The committee was set up a year later. Leung Chau-ting, who represents civil servants, said two years of talks had yet to bear fruit and he was considering quitting the committee in protest. He complained the government had been accommodating and biased towards employers. Cheung urged the representatives to look at the bigger picture. If regulations on working hours were laid out in contracts, he said, bosses would be held more accountable, making this an important but "not the last" step. READ MORE: Long working hours cause depression, survey confirms Also feeling the heat is committee chairman Leong Che-hung, who is already hard-pressed as head of the University of Hong Kong's governing council over allegations of political interference. Labour representative Leung accused the chairman of taking the employers' side. Leong asked the six members to stay on. "It would otherwise be a lose-lose situation," he said, adding that the idea of contract-based hours "is a first step in moving towards the goal".