No-pay leave pain for 1,000 guides

Top News | Maisy Mok 30 Oct 2020

Around 1,000 guides working at several travel agencies may be put on no-pay leave in the coming two days as the pandemic continues to bite hard.

This dismal outlook comes on the heels of Sunflower Travel announcing that all its employees will be put on no-pay leave from December. They number in the hundreds.

Tong Kim-sang, general secretary of the Travel Industry (Outbound) Tour Escort and Tour Guide Union, said at least 1,000 employees from two or three other agencies will be hit, though he did not identify the firms.

He claimed that "99 percent of tour guides in Hong Kong" have not had any income since February.

Sunflower Agency aims to furlough workers in two phases, though staff had not come through with an expected response by yesterday noon. The agency wants to hear how many accept the situation or do not.

It received HK$6.67 million in wage subsidies from the first tranche of the Employment Subsidy Scheme, when it committed to having 297 people on its payroll.

Many staff from Sunflower had contacted the union to ask what should be their next step after they were notified about the no-pay leave move on Tuesday, Tong said, but "the majority will agree to it."

He understood that staff who accept no-pay leave can work in other jobs at the same time.

And Yuen Chun-ning, chief executive of WWPKG, said eight to 10 large-scale agencies, each with more than 100 staff, could announce no-pay leave plans or even layoffs, though it was unlikely all employees would be affected.

He said many agencies have been seeking other ways to generate revenue such as operating local tours or starting purchasing agent businesses.

WWPKG started an online shopping service in March, Yuen said, and his company has no plan to lay off or furlough staff.

Travel Industry Council chairman Jason Wong Chun-tat said he expects more agencies to move on downsizing or no-pay leave arrangements when the subsidy program ends next month.

He urged a resumption of cross-border travel and a rapid rolling out of a health code.

According to The Standard's sister paper Sing Tao Daily, three small tour agencies have closed recently - King Tat Travel, L Travel Center and Tammy Travel -which specialized in short trips to Guangdong.

Alice Chan Cheung Lok-yee, executive director of the Travel Industry Council, said the three had been in business for 10 to 15 years, and Tammy Travel had 15 people while the other two had five.

Chan said Travel Center received HK$87,750 in wage subsidies in the first tranche in committing to four staff, but Tamy and King Tat were not seen on the list of employers with subsidies.

On the Covid-19 front, Hong Kong announced three new cases yesterday, taking the tally to 5,314.

Two were imported cases, involving a 33-year-old German woman and a 52-year-old woman from the United States.

The third is a resident of To Kwa Wan's Lok Man Sun Chuen, who contracted the virus from a previously confirmed patient. Staff of the Centre for Health Protection distributed sampling bottles there yesterday.

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