Survey shows widespread support for reduced working week
The construction industry has nothing to fear from a proposal to have a rest day on Saturdays for construction sites, according to a think tank.
In a recent post on his Dashun Policy Research Centre website, centre chairman and veteran former legislator for the engineering constituency Raymond Ho Chung-tai said: “Being worried that the proposal would probably lengthen project periods is unnecessary because the proposal would be used only in new contracts.”
He added that using advanced machinery and construction techniques would improve efficiency and reduce time for some activities.
In last year’s Vision 2020 document compiled by the Hong Kong Construction Association and the Construction Industry Group of the British Chamber of Commerce, the authors proposed “No Saturday” work, saying that there was growing recognition at all levels of the industry that “this is the right thing to do”.
“If we plan now, and commence in 2015, we could have wide-scale implementation by 2020. We believe the adverse impact on productivity is overstated and will be manageable,” the document said.
According to research commissioned by the HKCA last year and carried out by Dashun, nearly 70 percent of respondents in a random telephone survey supported having Saturdays off in the long term.
This figure climbed to 80 percent if incomes did not fall as a result of the proposal.
Over two-thirds of respondents said the proposal would help attract more young people to enter the construction industry.
Half of the respondents said the proposal would help cut the number of industrial accidents and improve the industry’s image.
Apart from telephone surveys, Dashun also formed a focus group and an in-depth dialogue group to allow participants to discuss Saturday rest days.
While the young people in the focus group supported the proposal, in the in-depth dialogue group which comprised union leaders, subcontractors and some employers, there were diverging views.
“Some subcontractors said the proposal would lengthen project periods,” Ho said.
Union leaders said that in order to implement the proposal successfully, changes had to be made in the present subcontracting and salary systems.
Ho said because the proposal affected all levels of the industry, to implement the proposal would require a strong convener to push members of the industry to resolve differences.
The government could help by trial-testing the proposal in one or two public works contracts, Ho said.
Some people in the industry remained skeptical.
“Unless government and other clients are willing to lengthen their construction period, and society in general accepts an increase in construction cost by 16 percent over existing prices, as well as accepting a slowdown of development, is this practical at this juncture? I doubt [it] very much. Maybe if we treat it as a 20 year target then it may be possible,” one company boss at a listed contractor said.
Asked for his views one cost consultant said: “Developers of course feel differently as they see costs rising and the RMAA (Repair, Maintenance, Minor Alteration and Addition) industry is a laggard in most areas so it is up to government to take the lead. We live in hope.”