SCMP Saturday, October 7, 2000

Chef finds new contract hard to swallow

A chef at a Causeway Bay restaurant told yesterday how he was asked to sign a new contract cutting his salary by $4,000 in order to reduce his boss' MPF contributions.
The employer offered instead to pay a $4,000 housing allowance - one of the most popular dodges to avoid paying full MPF contributions, unions said.
According to the new contract, the chef's previous $11,000 monthly salary would be divided into a $7,000 basic salary and $4,000 housing allowance. Legislator and unionist Leung Fu-wah said that by reducing the worker's basic salary, the restaurant owner sought to reduce his compulsory five per cent contribution.
The chef refused to sign the contract and has lodged a complaint with the Eating Establishment Employees' General Union. The restaurant owner could not be reached for comment yesterday.
A team of 15 construction workers at an engineering company also claimed their boss asked them to sign a new contract, which would make them individual contractors rather than permanent staff.
Mr Leung said the company had effectively tried to turn its staff into self-employed workers in an attempt to avoid the MPF completely. The staff also stood to lose other work benefits including compensation, pension and paid holidays.
He said some of the workers had signed the contract under pressure from their boss. Some business owners simply slashed wages and subsidies to pay for the MPF.