Minimum wage protesters disrupt Link affair

Updated: 2011-07-14 08:16

By Andrea Deng (HK Edition)

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The Link Real Estate Investment Trust (the Link) faced another angry protest as enraged trade unionists stormed an anniversary celebration for shareholders on Wednesday.

More than a dozen union members, building cleaners, and members of Linkwatch, an NGO that monitors the Link, charged that 41.5 percent of the company's contract workers are not being paid the statutory minimum wage of HK$28 an hour.

The protesters, some wearing vampire masks, held banners and cardboard signs accusing the Link of "not meeting its previous promises while earning huge profits".

Cheung Man-wai, a Linkwatch member, said that George Hongchoy Kwok-lung, executive director of the Link, had promised in a letter that the company will "make sure every single contract worker who works at its properties is paid the statutory minimum wage including paid lunch breaks and holidays".

According to a survey conducted by Linkwatch and the Cleaning Workers Union in June, 44 of 106 contract workers have not realized more than HK$28 an hour.

In the worst case, one contract employee earns HK$18.4 an hour, the protesters charged.

Poon Kai-tik, a spokesman for the Link, responded that only four out of the 12 delinquent outsourced companies are direct contractors for the Link, while other contractors are independently hired by the Link's individual tenants.

Poon said that the Link has no right to interfere with the choice of outsourced companies by tenants.

"But whether they are our contractors or our tenants, if they have violated the Minimum Wage Ordinance, they will be criminally liable, then we cannot continue our contract with them," said Poon.

As for direct contractors, Poon said the Link promised to make up deficiencies for its contractors if they apply.

He said only three contractors out of a total of 15 had handed in information and some had already received subsidies.

"We will follow up every complaint, and we will determine the specific details of the complainants, so that we can follow up with them individually, and then with the contractors - because it is very difficult for us to ask the contractors to supply information (on the wrongdoing). So we need to work closely with the complainants," said Poon.

However, the Link per se has not received any complaint, according to Poon.

Nor would it be easy to prove that the contractors or the tenants have violated the law with only a paper full of general statistics and without specific cases, Poon said.

andrea@chinadailyhk.com

China Daily

(HK Edition 07/14/2011 page1)