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Government response on Labour Day processions
     In response to the Labour Day processions today (May 1), a Government spokesman said that the Government has always proactively examined and improved employees' benefits and protection at a pace commensurate with Hong Kong's socio-economic development, taking into account both employees' interests and employers' affordability. The Government is also highly concerned about the occupational safety and health of the construction industry.

     "The Statutory Minimum Wage (SMW) rate has been raised to $34.5 per hour with effect from today. Since the implementation of SMW on the Labour Day of 2011, the employment market has remained broadly stable and the earnings of low-income workers have continued to improve. Total employment rose by some 280 000 over the pre-SMW period," the spokesman said.

    "A total of 18 compensation items under the Employees' Compensation Ordinance, the Pneumoconiosis and Mesothelioma (Compensation) Ordinance and the Occupational Deafness (Compensation) Ordinance were raised in April with increases ranging from 5.68 per cent to 10.84 per cent. This has enhanced the protection for injured employees, sufferers of occupational diseases and family members of employees or persons who died of work injuries or occupational diseases."

     The spokesman added that the Government is actively following up on  contentious issues that are of concern to labour organisations, including working hours policy and the Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) offsetting arrangement. The Standard Working Hours Committee submitted its report to the Government earlier this year. The Government is taking full account of the report and the views of various sectors of the community in striving to map out, within the term of the current Government, the working hours policy direction that best suits Hong Kong's socio-economic situation.

     On progressively abolishing the MPF offsetting arrangement, the Chief Executive announced a concrete proposal in the Policy Address in January this year.  The Government is examining the views of major stakeholders including the business and labour sectors with a view to finalising the proposal within its current term.

     Moreover, statutory paternity leave (PL) has so far been implemented smoothly. The Labour Department (LD) is reviewing the implementation of statutory PL with a view to reporting the outcome of the review to the Labour Advisory Board (LAB) and the Legislative Council Panel on Manpower within this year. In respect of the numbers of statutory holidays and general holidays, the Government will decide on the way forward after a consensus is reached by the LAB. It also plans to introduce a bill this month to strengthen the protection of the right to reinstatement or re-engagement for employees who are unreasonably and unlawfully dismissed.

     On labour importation, the LD will continue to uphold the principle of according employment priority to local workers in the administration of the Supplementary Labour Scheme.

     The spokesman added that the Government is highly concerned about occupational safety. He said, "In the light of the recent spate of fatal work accidents, especially in the construction industry, the LD has rolled out a series of initiatives to curb recurrence of similar accidents. Apart from stepping up inspection and enforcement efforts, the LD will also reinforce publicity and education. The LD has joined with several government departments and major stakeholders to explore ways to enhance the occupational safety of the construction industry. It has also launched the Occupational Safety Enhancement Campaign 'Construction Industry: Safety First' to further enhance the safety awareness of employers and employees and avoid work accidents."

     On the employment of persons with disabilities (PWDs), the Government's policy objectives are to provide skills training and support services for PWDs, so that they can take up appropriate employment in the open market on the basis of their abilities rather than disabilities, to provide assistance to employers, and to strive to promote an inclusive society. The Government will continue to implement multi-pronged measures to promote the employment of PWDs, including providing vocational rehabilitation and training services as well as job-matching services in the open market for PWDs, offering financial incentives to employers, setting up social enterprises and encouraging all sectors to offer employment opportunities to PWDs.
Ends/Monday, May 1, 2017
Issued at HKT 18:04
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