Tuesday, 3 May 2011

News: 'Unpaid toilet time' adds to $28 bitterness

I know the death of Bin Laden is a huge news, but before we get to see the picture, I'm still sceptical about it. So, let's change the topic and come back to Hong Kong.

On today's newspaper, we have a case on a company wanted to cut an employee's wage through the excuse of an 'unpaid toilet time' in order to balance the increase of their wage to meet the $28 minimum. And there are many words to learn.

'Unpaid toilet time' adds to $28 bitterness 

The minimum wage controversy took a new twist yesterday with a veteran unionist claiming a manufacturing company refused to pay a worker for time spent in the toilet.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

The minimum wage controversy took a new twist yesterday with a veteran unionist claiming a manufacturing company refused to pay a worker for time spent in the toilet.

The flap comes on the heels of rows over meal times and rest days after the hourly minimum rate of HK$28 took effect on Sunday.

The complaint was made by a 30-something worker to Federation of Trade Unions vice president Chan Yuen-han on Sunday. Chan said the worker was told that 30 minutes will be counted as toilet time each working day and docked from salaries.

"I am furious. In such a situation, does it mean the worker is a slave?" Chan said.

She added: "What is the rationale? It's unreasonable. I think the employer is acting way out of line and should be condemned.

"If each and every corporation treats employees this way, it will be humiliating to all Hong Kong bosses, not just that employer," she told a radio program. "How can it be acceptable to exploit workers that way?"

Chan told The Standard she considered the practice "crazy" and "relentless."

She said she has rarely heard of such cases in her decades as a unionist, but she believes more employers will make various excuses to exploit workers' under the minimum wage regime.

The complainant, she said, works in a manufacturing company with more than 10 employees. She declined to reveal the worker's salary and daily working hours.

Confederation of Trade Unions lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan renewed calls for collective bargaining rights. "To be frank, without collective bargaining rights, how can I possibly plug all the legal loopholes or tricks used by employers?" he said.

The Provisional Minimum Wage Commission last year estimated that 40,000 to 50,000 workers could be sacked when the hourly rate goes to HK$28.

A 23-year-old kitchen worker attempted suicide in Tsim Sha Tsui early on Sunday morning, three days after being sacked. Rescuers pulled him from the seawall.

Meanwhile, a survey has found that 85 percent of flat owners' committees have increased management fees by 5 to 30 percent.

The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong said many committees had cut staff or working hours.

DAB community officer Yeung Hok-ming said some residents were against the staff cuts for safety reasons, leading to arguments. Yeung called on the government to strengthen communication with owners' committees.


Actually, how many people are happy with $28?

Is it even enough? Closure of certain smaller companies who exploit their employees, is it what they deserve? Those who are already underpaid, do they enjoy the continuation of their underpayment or do they enjoy the new 'unpayment' because they get fired or their companies are fried?

Whenever a new policy goes up, some people need to suffer, and this is the so-called 'transition period', a new equilibrium cannot be reached if there is no shift in the old one in first place. The question is, is there a way to help these new sufferers?

The safety net has to be there to help the unfortunate. Otherwise, it could cause more uproars in the society.

But my doubt falls more on the question of, "is $28 enough?" If this is not enough, it will be harder to get the public to up the price even more. It seems like it is easier to start higher, say $38 and then bring it back down. Well, it is just my gut feeling. Of course, if you start from $38, then the shift from the equilibrium would be greater, and more companies will be forced to cut labour or shut down.


sceptical -- (adj) doubting that something is true or useful
controversy -- (n) [C or U] a lot of disagreement or argument about something, usually because it affects or is important to many people
twist -- (n) [C] a change in the way in which something happens
veteran --  (n) [Ca person who has had a lot of experience of a particular activity
flap -- (n) [S] informal a state of nervous excitement
on the heels of sth -- Fig. soon after something
row -- (n) [C] mainly UK a noisy argument or fight
dock -- (vb) [T] to remove part of something, especially money
furious -- (adj) extremely angry
slave -- (n) [C] a person who is legally owned by someone else and has to work for them
rationale -- (n) [C or U] formal the reasons or intentions for a particular set of thoughts or actions
humiliating -- (adj) making you feel ashamed or stupid
relentless -- (adj) continuing in a severe or extreme way
regime -- (n) [C] mainly disapproving a particular government or a system or method of government
complainant -- (n)  [C] legal a person who makes a formal complaint in a court of law
frank -- (adj) honest, sincere and telling the truth, even when this might be awkward or make other people uncomfortable
loopholes -- (n) [C] a small mistake in an agreement or law which gives someone the chance to avoid having to do something

'Unpaid toilet time' adds to $28 bitterness @ The Standard