LCQ14: Cleansing workers under Food and Environmental Hygiene Department

     Following is a question by the Hon Holden Chow and a reply by the Secretary for Environment and Ecology, Mr Tse Chin-wan, in the Legislative Council today (July 6):
     It is learnt that currently there are differences in pay between the Workmen II employed directly by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) and those cleansing workers employed under the FEHD through its outsourced service contractors (contractors), resulting in unequal pay for the same work. Regarding the cleansing workers under the FEHD, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the total number of Workmen II currently employed by the FEHD, as well as their minimum pay point, maximum pay point and average working hours per week;
(2) among the Workmen II mentioned in (1), of the respective numbers of those responsible for the cleansing services (i) at public places and (ii) in government premises, with a breakdown by the District Council (DC) district to which their service locations belong;
(3) of the current total number of outsourced cleansing service contracts (contracts) under the FEHD which are not yet expired, and set out the following details of each of such contracts by the DC district to which the service locations belong: (i) the name of the contractor, (ii) the location(s)/premises served and the relevant responsibilities, (iii) the contract value, (iv) the number of staff, (v) the total amount of wages, (vi) the pay level of cleansing workers, and (vii) the average working hours per week;
(4) as it is learnt that the aforesaid situation of unequal pay for the same work is serious, whether the Government will take measures to require its contractors to raise the pay levels of their cleansing workers, so as to narrow the differences between their pay levels and the pay level of the minimum pay point of the FEHD's Workmen II;
(5) whether the FEHD will, in procuring contracts, increase the weighting in its consideration for the factor of "employment terms and conditions for cleansing workers" under such contracts; and
(6) in the light of the substantial increase in the workload of frontline cleansing workers when the epidemic is severe, how the Government will, under the relevant mechanism, require the contractors to recruit additional cleansing workers, so as to cope with the additional service demand?
     In consultation with the Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau, our reply to the question raised by Hon Holden Chow is as follows:
(1) As at June 1, 2022, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) employed 2 656 Workmen II (WMII) responsible for cleansing, pest control, dead bodies disposal, and cemeteries and crematoria services at its premises and public places under its management. The minimum pay point of WMII is Model Scale 1 Pay Scale Point 0 ($13,730 per month) and the maximum pay point is Model Scale 1 Pay Scale Point 8 ($16,175 per month). According to their terms of employment, WMII works for 45 hours per week. They are required to work overtime under special circumstances.
(2) There are 1 928 WWII employed by the FEHD in total for providing cleansing services at public places and the premises under its management (including refuse collection points, public toilets, public markets, depots, cemeteries and crematoria, etc.), with breakdown of service locations by District Council district at Annex I. 
(3) As at May 31, 2022, 120 outsourced cleansing service contracts under the FEHD had not yet expired. The name of the contractors, the location(s)/premises served and their relevant duties, the contract value, and the number of posts stipulated in the contract are set out (by the District Council district to which the service locations belong) at Annex II. The wage floor for outsourced cleansing workers stipulated in the contracts averages $13,530 per month. As the monthly wage of cleansing workers stipulated under each contract, i.e. the lower limit of wages payable to cleansing workers committed by the contractor at the tendering stage, is commercial information, the FEHD cannot provide the total amount of wages and the pay level of cleansing workers under each contract. Moreover, the FEHD adopts an outcome-based approach in outsourcing cleansing services. The contractors have to adjust the manpower deployment (including employing additional manpower and part-time staff) and working hours based on actual operational needs to meet contractual requirements. As such, the FEHD does not have information on the average working hours per week of the cleansing workers under each service contract.
(4) and (5) Government departments are required to comply with the Government's procurement policy in procuring outsourced contractor services. Starting from April 1, 2019, the Government has implemented a series of measures to enhance the remuneration and benefits of outsourced non-skilled workers. The FEHD has forthwith incorporated/amended the relevant terms in the tender documents for the outsourced service contracts concerned, which include increasing the weighting of technical assessment (including scores on employment terms and conditions of workers, execution plans proposed by tenderers, past performance in executing the FEHD service contracts, as well as experience and certification in relevant services) of the tender marking scheme to 50 per cent; increasing the weighting of employment terms and conditions of workers under technical assessment to 25 per cent; and stipulating a 6 per cent contractual gratuity for workers with 12 months of service upon expiry of contract or termination of employment, statutory holiday pay for those with one month of service and an additional pay of at least 50 per cent of wages for working when typhoon signal no. 8 or above is hoisted, etc.
     With the adoption of the relevant measures in the tender documents of the FEHD outsourced service contracts, there are significant improvements in the pay level and other benefits of non-skilled workers employed by contractors. The wage floor for cleansing workers stipulated in cleansing service contracts that had not expired by end of May 2022 averaged $13,530 per month, which shows a substantial increase of more than 50 per cent as compared with the average wage floor stipulated in the contracts which were effective before implementation of the improvement measures (which was $9,089 as at the end of 2018).
(6) In order to meet the additional cleansing service demand arising from the pandemic, the FEHD has, in the light of actual needs, required contractors to deploy resources appropriately under the existing service contracts to carry out cleansing at specified times and places and to ensure that there is sufficient manpower to cope with the work. Besides, the FEHD has provided additional resources to modify the existing cleansing service contracts by adding specified service requirements. It will also require the contractors to employ additional staff for strengthening cleansing services, including street washing, rear lane cleaning, removal of discarded refuse, cleaning of public toilets and refuse collection.
     In addition, the FEHD will closely monitor the service needs and consider engaging additional contractors as appropriate to step up cleansing services. During the process of service contract procurement, the FEHD will ensure that the contractors have adequate manpower and will adopt measures to strengthen the safeguarding of the remuneration packages of outsourced non-skilled workers as afore-mentioned.

Ends/Wednesday, July 6, 2022
Issued at HKT 18:52