AL Plenary | Minimum wage for cleaning and security staff approved


The Legislative Assembly (AL) passed a bill last Friday guaranteeing local cleaners and security guards a minimum wage, effective at the start of 2016. However, the regulation applies exclusively to employees hired by property management service suppliers or those working in residential buildings.
Workers employed by proprietors of buildings for commercial or industrial purposes are not among the beneficiaries of the law, which stipulates that employees in the two fields are entitled to an hourly wage of MOP30, a daily wage of MOP240 or a monthly wage of MOP6,240. Those workers are among employees from other sectors who will only enjoy the entitlement after 2018, as the authorities have pledged to make the regulation universal in the territory within three years after it has first come into force. At the AL it was also announced that reviews on the upcoming minimum wage law will only take place one year following its implementation.
Some of the bill articles ignited debate between lawmakers and the Secretary for Economy and Finance Lionel Leong, as others cast doubts on the deliberate adoption of the phrase “for residential purpose”, a discriminative statement at which directly-elected policymaker Song Pek Kei lashed out.
“As you know, our urban properties are composed of industrial and commercial buildings and those for residential use. There are several sorts. But now there’s only ‘residential use’ while the other types are not included,” said Song. “Why are the employees hired by those who self-manage their industrial buildings out of the regulation? It’s a matter of equality as they’re all property owners.”
“Commercial buildings and industrial buildings in general don’t require property management firms to hire security guards and cleaners for them. Therefore, we had this change to the article [in the final text],” said the secretary. Another official subsequently disclosed that the specific addition was made after discussion with the legislature’s advisory body to avoid creating other legal definitions for the term “employer.”
Local employers, as the minimum wage law stipulates in its third article, are required to pay MOP30 per hour to part-time staff employed on a daily basis for overtime work. Contrarily, those hired on a monthly basis only receive MOP26 per hour for extra work, which the two directly-elected lawmakers Au Kam San and Kwan Tsui Hang criticized as “unfair” and “unreasonable.” According to the pair, companies are more likely to prefer monthly employment as the disparity of the different payments was significantly wider, given the existing labor relations law’s stipulated calculation of wage payment for working overtime.
Au said: “Although we could formulate the minimum law wage like this, but not however when it obviously contradicts the labor relations law. We need to ask one question: do the laws prevail over the government?”
Kwan’s enquiries echoed his remarks, saying the content of the new law suggested “misconceptions” for society. “Regardless of daily, hourly or monthly pay, their employment stability is different. We can’t compare them as apples to apples,” the Secretary Lionel Leong said in response to the criticism, stressing that full-time employees were usually entitled to other perks and benefits at work. Furthermore, the accompanying officials added that the residential building-oriented law has always been stated in the consensus reached with five non-government organizations over the past year.
Apparently the authorities’ answers failed to satisfy critical lawmakers.  Kwan Tsui Hang continued: “Monthly employees only get MOP26 per hour for extra work. Is it fair? Does the government think it’s fair?”
According to the government’s estimate, only 4,650 employees will be entitled to the benefits of the new regulation while another 13,200 staff members’ salaries are still below the minimum wage.   Staff reporter

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