Unions accuse firms of pushing pay gloom

Local | Yupina Ng 28 Nov 2016

Employees should have a 5 percent pay rise next year, the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions suggested, as it accused businesses of painting a gloomy economy to suppress pay increases.

CTU chief executive Mung Siu-tat cited University of Hong Kong figures to show the economy in the fourth quarter this year is expected to grow 2.1 percent, compared with 1.9 percent in the third quarter, meaning that the economy is likely to bounce back.

"Consumption and income are related to each other," Mung said yesterday at a press briefing. "If the business sector uses unstable economy as an excuse to suppress pay hikes, the economy will fall into a vicious cycle because a lower pay rise will affect the employees' consumption power. As a result, economic growth will slow down."

CTU general secretary and former legislator Lee Cheuk-yan said its demand of a 5 percent pay rise has taken the inflation rate and the earnings of big businesses into consideration, adding that many big businesses are still earning billions a year.

The CTU said the inflation rate from January to September this year was 3.4 percent but the government figures show it was 2.8 percent.

"Whether the economy is good or bad, employees have the right to share the spoils of success," Lee said.

Silvia But Pui-ying, vice chairwoman of Cathay Pacific Airways Flight Attendants Union, which is under the CTU, revealed yesterday that it started negotiating with the airline last week on a pay rise and extension of th eretirement age to 65.

She described the meeting as "peaceful."

Although the higher retirement age, currently at 55, remains its first priority, the union hopes to have salaries increased by 5 percent, up from last year's 4 percent rise.

She added that cabin crew deserve a pay rise as the carrier will increase flight seats next year, meaning they will been given more work to do. Cathay Pacific will reply to the union on Thursday.

Union of Hong Kong Dockers secretary Chan Yum-wo said their employer has been increasing their salaries each year since the union went on strike in 2013, but only because workers voiced their demands instead of the employer actively increasing their pay.

Earlier this month, the Hong Kong Institute of Human Resources Management said it expects employees to get a 3.5 percent pay rise next year, although the estimate is the lowest since 2012 because of the economic slowdown in China and weak local and overseas consumer confidence.

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