Date
20 June 2018
Labor groups have slammed the government for opting to merely issue guidelines for some sectors, rather than continue efforts to work toward legislating standard working hours.  Photo: CNSA
Labor groups have slammed the government for opting to merely issue guidelines for some sectors, rather than continue efforts to work toward legislating standard working hours. Photo: CNSA

Govt accused of backtracking on working-hours legislation

The government is facing questions over its decision to suspend discussions on legislating standard working hours, and opting instead to only issue guidelines for a few sectors.

Labor representatives criticized the government, saying it is going back on a previous commitment for regulation of working hours, especially for low-paid temporary labor.  

Shelving the plan amounts to injustice for millions of working-class Hongkongers who have long suffered from long work hours without legal protection, the groups said.

The criticism came after the Carrie Lam administration announced that it has decided to suspend work on legislation of standard working hours and contracted working hours, calling a halt to efforts of its predecessors.

The government justified its decision on the grounds that there was lack of support from society for the working-hours legislation plan.

In a meeting held by the Labour Advisory Board (LAB) on Wednesday, the government revealed that it will now merely issue guidelines for 11 specific sectors by 2020.

It is also said that, in 2023, the effectiveness of the guidelines will be reviewed, and the direction of the policy of working hours will be discussed, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports..

This implies there will be no talks on legislation for standard working hours in the next five years.

A three-party committee, comprising representatives from the government, the employers and labor, was already in place to formulate working hours guidelines for nine individual industries, namely catering, construction, cement and concrete, hotels and tourism, logistics, property management, printing, retail, and theater.

The board decided at the meeting Wednesday to add two more to the list - cleaning services and elderly homes.

According to a HKEJ source, the government suggested that the guidelines should list measures to ensure good management of working hours, whose standards should be on an industry-by-industry basis.

Meanwhile, there will be arrangements made for overtime compensation based on individual industry’s characteristics. Also, an issue that should be looked into is the definition of overtime work.

Calling the guidelines not comprehensive enough because they only cover 11 industries, Bill Tang Ka-piu from the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, a labor representative on the LAB, said it is a matter of concern that the government has failed to elaborate on whether it will review the guidelines in the direction of legislating standard working hours.

Another labor representative, Chau Siu-chung, asked the Labour Department to specify in the guidelines that the limit of weekly working hours is 44 hours and that the overtime wage rate should be no less than 1.5 times the regular hourly rate.

Employers’ representative Jimmy Kwok Chun-wah, meanwhile, agreed with the government’s proposal, saying the 11 selected industries can create a demonstration effect for other industries in the future.

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TL/JC/RC

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