LCQ14: Working environment and employees' rights and interests of cleaning workers


Hong Kong (HKSAR) -      Following is a question by the Hon Steven Ho and a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Professor Sophia Chan, in the Legislative Council today (February 28):

Question:

     Regarding the working environment and employees' rights and interests of the workers employed by outsourced service contractors (contractors) to provide cleaning services for the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (cleaning workers), will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether it knows (i) the number of cleaning workers and (ii) the year-on-year percentage change of such number, in each of the past five years;

(2) whether it knows the average number of garbage bags and masks provided to each cleaning worker per week at present;

(3) whether the authorities received complaintsfrom cleaning workers in the past five years that the significant staff cutbacks by some contractors had rendered them unable to take a rest day in every seven days to which they were entitled under the law; if so, of the details, and whether the authorities have taken follow-up actions and instituted prosecutions against the contractors concerned;

(4) whether it will explore measures to improve the scheme for evaluating tenders for outsourced services, including (i) lowering the weighting of a tender's scores on price aspect against the overall score to, say, not more than 50 per cent, (ii) stipulating that contractors must arrange sufficient manpower and deploy appropriate equipment for providing cleaning services in order to alleviate cleaning workers' hardship, and (ii) stipulating that contractors must offer better remuneration packages for workers; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(5) given that at present, cleaning workers have to lift up the bulky lids of litter containers and tilt them sideways before they can clean the ashtrays on the top of the lids, and that cleaning workers, who are mostly aged, making such a movement are prone to injuries and musculoskeletal disorders, whether the authorities will improve the design of litter containers; if so, of the details; if not, the other solutions to this problem; and

(6) whether it will step up publicity and promotion (such as organising recycling bin design competitions) to urge members of the public to reduce the production of waste and separate waste properly, with a view to reducing the workload of cleaning workers; if so, of the details (including timetable); if not, the reasons for that?

Reply:

President,

     My reply to the various parts of the question is as follows:

(1) The information sought is provided as follows:
 
Position Number of workers
2017-18
(as at December 31, 2017)
2016-17
(as at
March 31, 2017)
2015-16
(as at
March 31, 2016)
2014-15
(as at
March 31, 2015)
2013-14
(as at
March 31, 2014)
Cleansing worker 9 217
(+4.41 per cent)
8 828
(-0.53 per cent)
8 875
(+2.58 per cent)
8 652
(-6.23 per cent)
9 227

(2) While the public cleansing services contracts of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) do not specify the quantity of garbage bags to be used, the contractors are responsible for supplying sufficient cleansing equipment, vehicles, materials and tools to ensure the delivery of the services in a safe, proper and efficient manner. The contracts require the adoption of a good green management practice in the use of plastic bags as the inner linings of litter containers and dog excreta collection bins which should be replaced only as and when required. In addition, it is stipulated in the contracts that the contractors should ensure that all their employees wear tidy and clean uniforms or special protective clothing which the Government Representative may consider necessary or appropriate while they are providing the services. This includes the replacement of mask at least once at the beginning of a work shift or immediately after the mask is damaged. The contractors are obliged to provide and replace these uniforms and special protective clothing for their staff. FEHD has also imposed a condition in newly awarded contracts requiring the submission of a uniform supply and distribution plan within two weeks after the commencement of the contracts by the contractors for approval by the Government Representative. The contractors are also required to keep a detailed record of the distribution of such items to individual staff, including their acknowledgement with signature of receipt of such items.

Such record should be produced for inspection upon request by the Government Representative.

(3) In the past five years, FEHD did not receive any complaints from cleansing workers concerning such irregularity.

(4) An inter-bureau and inter-departmental working group (the working group) has been set up by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare to look for ways to improve the Government's outsourcing system with a view to strengthening protection of the non-skilled workers employed by Government service contractors with respect to reasonable remuneration and labour rights. The working group will look into the marking scheme for evaluating tenders with the aim of enabling the non-skilled workers employed under Government outsourced contracts to get more reasonable remuneration while meeting the requirement of enhancement of service quality. The working group will also examine the contents of the "Standard Employment Contract" and the duration of the Government service contracts to reinforce protection of the labour rights to which all eligible workers are entitled. As a member of the working group, FEHD will take a proactive role in the above review, which is expected to be completed by the third quarter of this year.

     It is stipulated in current tender documents for provision of public cleansing services that the contractors must fulfil the manpower requirement set by FEHD. An adequate supply of cleansing equipment, tools and materials of the required quality by the cleansing services contractors is also required under the contract terms to ensure the delivery of the services in a safe, proper and efficient manner. FEHD has also introduced a new condition in new street cleansing contracts requiring contractors to use equipment/devices such as leaf blower, walk-behind mini-street sweeper and pressure washer surface cleaner to enhance efficiency and alleviate the workers' hardship.

(5) In the past, litter containers and recycling bins provided by the Government in public places were procured by different departments to suit their own needs.

To meet the requirement of the community for litter containers and recycling bins, to further enhance public participation in waste reduction and clean recycling and to facilitate better inter-departmental co-ordination and innovation, the Environment Bureau has set up the Steering Group on the Modification of Recycling and Refuse Collection Facilities in Public Places (the Steering Group) to review the distribution and design of recycling bins and litter containers in public places and to recommend on new designs. The Steering Group has commissioned a consultancy study and consulted various stakeholders (including frontline cleansing workers) in setting the design direction and identifying key issues, including the principles of user-friendliness and occupational safety, that should be taken into account. The Steering Group will consult the various stakeholders again when a design proposal is available.

(6) As mentioned in part (5) above, the Steering Group has commissioned a consultancy to conduct a study on the design of recycling bins and make recommendations to the Government and will consult various stakeholders in due course. In addition, the Government is rolling out a new round of publicity and public education campaign, striving to encourage participation by all in enhancing waste reduction at source to reduce the waste load and in promoting source separation of waste and clean recycling to reduce the chance of recyclables being contaminated (such contaminants will add difficulty to the subsequent recycling process).



Published on: 2018-02-28

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