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Typhoon Mangkhut

Typhoon Mangkhut aftermath: Three in 10 Hong Kong workers would lose pay, bonus and holiday leave if they missed work because of a storm, survey finds

The government called for consideration from bosses after storm caused travel chaos. But many employees say missing work would have cost them dear

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 September, 2018, 8:01pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 September, 2018, 10:38pm

About three in 10 Hong Kong workers said their boss would cut their pay, bonus and even holiday leave if they missed work during or just after a major storm, according to a survey released days after Typhoon Mangkhut battered the city.

The Federation of Hong Kong and Kowloon Labour Unions, in its poll of 600 workers between March and May this year, also found that more than half were not offered extra pay for working during extreme weather.

Its findings came out on Thursday, soon after the government defended its refusal to declare Monday a day off. Intense winds and rain felled trees and caused debris to pile up when the storm hit on Sunday, affecting public transport and throwing the city into chaos the next morning.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor urged employers to be considerate and flexible with delayed employees, but said it was up to individual employers to decide work arrangements. The government did suspend classes on Monday and Tuesday, for schools to clean up the storm’s mess.

The survey also found more than four in 10 respondents said they had to go to work despite the extreme weather. That was especially the case for people working in property management, security, tourism, catering, logistics and medicine.

Of them, more than half said employers would not arrange transport. More than three-quarters said they were not provided food, and 65 per cent said they were not paid extra.

About 28 per cent of respondents claimed they would have their pay or bonus cut if they could not get to work, or if they showed up late, while 32 per cent said their bosses would deduct a day of their holiday leave for not having to work when a Typhoon No 8 signal was issued.

One respondent, a security guard, told the federation he was required to go to work during the No 10 typhoon signal on Sunday. The guard, who preferred to be known only as Mr Wong, said he lived in Mong Kok and had to get to work in Wan Chai, across the harbour.

“I had no choice but to take a taxi,” he said. “But you know what? I was charged HK$800 (US$102) for the trip, which should normally cost about HK$100 or so. The company said they would only offer me HK$100 subsidy. That was so unfair. What have I done to deserve this?”

Wong said he was paid about HK$650 for the 12-hour shift.

The Labour Department has a code of practice for employers and employees during typhoons and rainstorms. According to the code, the employers and employees should work out special arrangements together, and employers should provide transport for employees “if possible”. It also suggests bosses “consider” paying extra because of the conditions, and provide food and water.

Tree expert appeals to Sha Tin residents to save tree battered by Mangkhut

But Chu Hon-chung, a spokesman for the federation, said the code was “nothing more than a paper tiger”.

“The bosses can simply not follow it. The government should make laws to require employers to support and compensate workers who have to work under severe weather,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Professional Teachers’ Union urged the government to give special typhoon relief funds for schools to clean up.

The union said it got complaints from 164 schools on Wednesday and Thursday alone, reporting extensive damage to campuses. Major problems included fallen trees, water seepage and broken windows.

Some 10 per cent of schools estimated the cost of cleaning up at more than HK$200,000, while 55 per cent put their estimates at between HK$20,000 and HK$200,000.

The Education Bureau said it had been in close contact with schools to understand their needs. “A special allowance scheme [through which schools can apply for help with clean-up costs] is being worked out and details will be announced by next week," the bureau said in a statement.

Additional reporting by Peace Chiu