2014-07-15     A 12-hour working day ......in Hong Kong?


Some years ago when I worked in China as an English teacher, I was sad to meet people who had to work long hours in clothing, shoe and electronic factories. It was common then for workers to have 10 or 11 or even 12-hour shifts.

The factory owners said the shifts were only 8 hours, but everyone knew that if you wanted a better salary, you needed to do overtime every working day, so that your shift was much longer than 8 hours. In fact, the factories did not employ any 8-hour shift people.

Recently in Hong Kong I was sad to learn that security companies which used to employ 3 people for 8 hours each in one 24 hour period, now employ 2 people for 12 hours each, the companies and institutions which use them thereby saving money by having fewer employees. Yes, the employees get a higher salary, but the long hours take a serious toll on their health, their work efficiency and their family life. They would much prefer an 8-hour shift.

That such arrangements are in place in many church-run schools and buildings is especially surprising, given that church authorities are supposed to protect the rights of workers. Pope Francis says that increasing profits by reducing the work force is not an economic remedy but a social poison.