Representatives walk out of talks on Hong Kong working hours

Author: Liana Cafolla | Date: 16 Dec 2015

Agreement could mean employees take home HK$21.6bn in overtime pay, say firms

Employee representatives this week walked out of a meeting with Hong Kong employer organisations which aimed to discuss the possibility of legislating on working hours.
 
Six employee representatives say that employer groups went back on an agreement to discuss setting working hour limits by legislation, and were instead prepared only to talk about setting out working hours and conditions in contracts. For their part, employer groups said reaching a decision on contracted working hours would serve as the basis for future discussions on legislating standard working hours.
 
“We walked out because we feel there is no point continuing the discussions without the agreement,” Chau Siu-chong, treasurer of the Federation of Hong Kong and Kowloon Labour Unions and one of the six who quit the talks, told the South China Morning Post.
 
“I feel a bit disappointed,” said Dr Leong Che-hung, chair of the committee set up in 2013 to study the issue. “But I’m not losing hope and I hope they will come back for the next meeting.”
 
The six representatives said they would not participate in the next meeting if the committee continued to focus only on using contracts to stipulate working hours and overtime pay.
 
The committee plans to hold a second round of consultations in December and present final proposals to the government in March next year. So far, it has considered 28 scenarios on working hours, all of which will be included in the second round of consultation which will only be open to invited groups, Leong said.
 
At the same meeting, the committee also considered a new standard working hours scenario for employees who earn less than HK$25,000 per month, meaning that if these employees worked more than 44 hours per week they would be paid 1.5 times the hourly salary rate for every additional hour worked. That could see about 38 per cent of workers take home approximately 10 per cent more pay, but employers say implementing such a scenario would cost them about HK$21.6 billion.
 
Community Business, a non-profit group advocating responsible business practices in Asia, recently commissioned a survey carried out by the University of Hong Kong’s Public Opinion Programme about employees’ perceptions of work-life balance. The results showed that 62 per cent believe their work-life balance has worsened in the last decade. Just 14 per cent thought it had improved and about 20 per cent said they had seen no change.