This week, the government published a set of guidelines for employers, educating them on how to follow the minimum wage law, which is to take effect on the coming Labour Day, 1 May 2011.
We all know the minimum hourly wage is going to be HK$28. Feeling satisfied with it is like feeling happy with a bank which claims to lend you money with zero interest rate. Something must be lurking behind the devil’s contract.
What we care about is whether our fellow workers’ monthly salary will increase to a humane level, or whether workers can work less for the same amount of salary so that they could enjoy life more. Two things come to our concern: meal breaks and rest days. Will they be counted as paid working hours?
So here comes the Holy Guideline. Read what it says about meal breaks.
“When an employee during his meal break also falls under the circumstances of hours worked as specified in the Minimum Wage Ordinance, such meal break is hours worked for computing minimum wage.”
Need help? Here’s an example to illustrate. “Example 10: An employee has his meal break from 1pm to 2pm. At the same time, he remains in attendance at his post for the purpose of doing working in accordance with the contract of employment or with the agreement or at the direction of the employer. Such meal break is hours worked for computing minimum wage.”
Excuse my poor English. What the heck is it talking about? Does it mean, in order to have your meal break paid, you must have lunch and do work at the same time? Or you need to order takeaway so that you “remain in attendance at your post”? Or you must eat with your boss in order to be “at the direction of the employer”? How can that be?
It’s like men saying “I’m not ready to be in a relationship yet”, just a lousy way to say NO. Why don’t they just fucking plainly say so?
The Commissioner for Labour said the law does not prescribe that meal breaks and rest days should be paid. Matters like these are to be agreed between employers and employees. (In SCMP, there’s even a typo “between employers and employers”. Freudian slip maybe?) Hell yes. I want to reach an agreement with my credit card company too.
According to the news report, legislator Lee Cheuk-yan said the guideline appeared to favour employers.
But wait a second. Weren’t you supposed to take care of the law in the first place, my honoured legislator? When you were wearing fancy T-shirts and making drama at Legco, as we’ve seen on YouTube, didn’t you also fight for us in every single detail of the piece of legislation?
Even the Minimum Wage Ordinance is a piece of subsidiary legislation, its Bill drafted first by the administration, it still needs to be read, amended and passed by legislators to become effective law. Why didn’t our lawmakers make it certain and clear in the first place? We don’t need a goddamn guideline to tell us so much later that the legislation can’t help us.
In the full text of the Minimum Wage Ordinance, nothing has been mentioned about meal breaks and rest days. Fantastic.
The only thing that is slightly clear can be found in the Guideline. It’s about rest days.
“Payment made to the employee for any time that is not hours worked (e.g. holiday pay, annual leave pay, sickness allowance, maternity leave pay, rest day pay, etc) must not be counted as part of the wages payable to the employee.” Sympathy allowance perhaps?