Disparity reflected on holidays Fighting for 17 labour holidays

Disparity reflected on holidays - Fighting for 17 labour holidays

30 March 2013

While some employees are enjoying their successive four-day Easter Holidays, nearly two million of workers in Hong Kong are excluded from it. The HKCTU demands the Chief Executive, CY Leung to immediately standardize public holidays and statutory holidays to 17 days, to give all workers in Hong Kong the same entitlement of holidays and eliminate such a disparity on holidays.
Leung has not raised any concrete recommendations regarding labour rights since he took office and is now seen as insincere to the working class. The HKCTU is now demanding Leung to honour his promise in caring for the grassroots, which he made when he ran for the election.

Low costs for a rise of five holidays

Since many years, the HKCTU has been advocating the standardization of public holidays and statutory holidays to 17 days. Currently, most grassroots workers are entitled to 12 statutory holidays while the white-collar, middle or upper level employees are enjoying 17 public holidays, an obvious disparity reflected on holidays and a discrimination against grassroots workers. It is estimated that 1.8 million of workers, i.e. 60%, of the three million working population, are excluded from the entitlement of 17 public holidays. They are mainly from the sectors of transport, catering, retailing, personal services, cleaning and security, construction and etc..
The business sector often claims that increasing holidays would lead to a rise in labour costs, which it could not afford. Yet, the actual increase of labour costs for a hike of five holidays is 1.7%. As salaries amount for 34.9% of the operational costs for all industries in Hong Kong, standardizing public and statutory holidays would only increase the total costs of 0.6%, to the employers' budget. For example, in a small-medium size enterprise with 10 employees and their medium monthly income is set at HKD12,000, increasing their holidays from 12 to 17 days, would only increase the expenses on salaries by HKD1,666 per month. In short, enterprises would only need to pay several thousand dollars more per month, to end the this form of holiday inequality. As the HKCTU observes, many enterprises have offered their employees 17 public holidays and it has minimal impacts on their overall performance. "Unaffordable costs" is simply an exaggeration to threaten the public.
Another camp suggested to introduce those 5 days in stages, such as increasing one statutory holiday each year. Yet, the HKCTU has calculated and shown that to increase 5 days at one go is having very minor impact on labour costs and therefore, there is no point to wait.

Leung's determination is crucial in standardizing holidays

On 21 May 2008, Lee Cheuk-yan has motioned "to include public holidays into statutory holidays" at the Legislative Council (LegCo). Among the 53 members at the meeting, a majority of 34 voted in favour, 1 against and 17 abstentions. As it was a motion raised by a LegCo member, it was required to be voted separately and eventually turned down by the functional constituencies. Yet, if it would have been a motion from the Government, it is almost clear that it would be passed. Therefore, the HKCTU believes that if Leung would make such a motion, it is very likely to be passed at the LegCo.

Lowest number of holidays, shame for an international city

Property price, rent and even the salaries of the Chief Executive in Hong Kong, have all exceeded their counterparts in the Western society, yet, in terms of labour rights, Hong Kong is failing terribly. Most of the Hong Kong workers are entitled to only 12 statutory holidays and together with their 7 days of annual leave, they have a total of 19 holidays per year, making them almost least free workers in the world.
Therefore, the HKCTU demands that CY Leung should increase the statutory holidays to 17 days, making it the same as public holidays, to show his commitment for the grassroots workers.

Annual holidays: examples of some advanced countries
(including annual leave and public holidays)

United Kingdom.   24

Germany               24

New Zealand        29

Finland                 30

South Korea         32

Belgium                34