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Transcript of remarks by SLW on special holiday on September 3, 2015

     Following is the transcript of remarks by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, on the special holiday on September 3, 2015, after chairing an inter-departmental meeting with the Hong Kong Services Trade Alliance today (August 26):

Reporter: Can you tell us the result of the discussion today please?

Secretary for Labour and Welfare: We had a very good discussion with the contractors providing service for government departments - government service contractors. Basically, they are very concerned about the special statutory holiday on September 3, particularly in terms of the additional staff cost. So they proposed to the Government whether we can allow them the flexible deployment of staff, so as to offset the cost of the additional holiday. We have examined very carefully from the legal, practical and pragmatic angles. If we look at the contracts strictly from the legal point of view, there is no legal liability on the part of the Government to accede to their request. And in fact, in terms of contractual obligation, they have the obligation to discharge the contract completely and also to bear their commercial risks, as it were, arising from any statutory requirement.

     But having said all that, we think that we should treat the whole thing in a more liberal light, and also in a more reasonable light, particularly having regard to the difficulties they face in terms of additional costs and all that. So we have accepted their proposal now, to allow them to use the 60-day window, as it were, because under the employment law, for statutory holiday, if an employee has to work on a statutory holiday, he or she will have to take leave within 60 days. So, in other words, use that window to deploy staff flexibly so that they could exhaust the leave. And, they have welcomed the proposal. We have all agreed to that proposal, on the condition that public service must not be affected. Public service must have priority. We must not compromise public service in the end. And also, in the case where they cannot flexibly deploy staff for that purpose and they need, for example, additional manpower for replacement staff, then we allow them to put in their claim for ex-gratia payment from the departments concerned. Now, I must stress that this arrangement is a one-off, exceptional arrangement, and is not to be taken as a precedent.

(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)

Ends/Wednesday, August 26, 2015
Issued at HKT 17:56


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