Govt urged to subsidise wages to avoid layoffs

A catering sector representative has urged the government to help restaurants pay their staff so as to avoid layoffs amid the Omicron outbreaks.

Simon Wong from the Federation of Restaurants on Sunday called on the government to roll out another round of the Employment Support Scheme, after two batches of funding were handed out in 2020.

Wong said stricter social distancing measures this month had cost the sector HK$4 billion in business, adding it appeared the ban on evening dine-in won’t be lifted any time soon.

“We’re now suffering from our business loss, and I foresee that in March, we might have a wave of closing down of our restaurants, which means a lot of employees in this trade would be affected,” Wong told RTHK, adding he wouldn’t be surprised if hundreds of restaurants fold.

“A lot of restaurants will also be affected, especially for the Chinese restaurants. Since we cannot hold big banquets, and this is [around] the Lunar New Year. If there’s no banquet business, we don’t need to employ the frontline staff, particularly the part-time staff, they will definitely lose their jobs.”

He said the latest anti-epidemic relief measures announced by the Chief Executive isn’t enough for the catering sector, and called on the government to offer employment-linked subsidies in next month’s Budget.

Unionist lawmaker Chau Siu-chung, meanwhile, called on the administration to directly hand out financial assistance to workers, so long as they can produce proof of employment.