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Employers exaggerated retail slowdown, says HK labour group

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Earlier this year, the Hong Kong government tightened its policies to limit the number of Mainland tourists visiting the city-state.

In response, spokespersons from the retail industry complained that this had the impact of causing the retail market to do worse than in 2003 (during the SARS pandemic), a point reinforced by law maker Vincent Fang Kang.

In the latest development, labour group Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions has accused retail employers of exaggerating the impact of fewer Mainland tourists, while refusing to share the fruit of success with staff.

After looking at government figures, the Unions found that through the first nine months in 2015, the retail industry recorded a 2.7% decline when compared to the same period last year.

However, when compared to five years ago, they found a huge rise of 50%, said representatives from the Union at a press conference.

If sales figures from the watches and jewellery sector were taken out, the retail industry actually recorded a 0.6% growth, implying the drop off in retail was limited to a handful of industries and business had otherwise boomed in the past few years.

The Union opined staff deserve a pay raise of no less than 6% in order to combat inflation.

ALSO READ: A CEO’s view of HR challenges in the retail and service sector

General secretary of the Unions Lee Cheuk Yan condemned law maker Vincent Fang Kang for making false claims earlier that the retail market was doing even worse than 2003 when the city was hit by the SARS pandemic.

In response, Fang said that while watches and jewellery were hit the hardest, other retailers such as beauty products were also suffering.

“You cannot just look at numbers. Many big brand names that do not offer discounts are hosting special offers. If the market was doing well, they would not be doing this,” he told the Economic Times.

The Union also found that in the past 16 years, the average income rise in the city is 22%, most of which was brought forward by pay raises in the financial sector. Transport, professional and business services have not recorded much growth.  

If the average pay in 1999 was HK$100, today’s pay is only HK$98.7 after taking inflation into account.

Lee said various organisations predicted the city’s annual economic growth of 2.45%, and while the inflation is at 3.4%, the condition is nowhere as bad as some employers have described.

“Employers have exploited workers for many years, refusing to share the wealth during the good times and asking staff to tighten the belt during raining days. Local workers deserve at least 6% pay raise this year,” he said.

Image: Shutterstock

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