‘The financial costs of the new workweek law are real’

By Kuan-lin Liu, The China Post

“At the beginning … we in the dining services industry said that this law was implemented in too rushed a fashion. It didn’t let us prepare, nor was there any guidance or education. I think that we all thought these were flaws in the policy,” said Brian Lin (林奕成), general manager of Jing Xiang Group Co., Ltd. (京享實業有限公司), reflecting on the new workweek law.

The labor law made headlines again earlier this month after Nantou Magistrate Lin Ming-chen (林明溱) said he was refusing to implement the law in his county, claiming that the regulations severely disrupted previous industry arrangements.

Other local leaders also came out to question the workweek law, while a few gave it their backing. We sat down for an exclusive with Brian Lin to understand how a mid-sized business like his had been affected by the new law. ‘Still getting used to it’ Now, almost three months since the law was implemented nationwide, Jing Xiang Group was still making adjustments in order to follow it exactly, Lin said.

The Taichung-based hospitality corporation currently has six restaurant brands under its name, including barbecue brands Bungy Jump (笨豬跳) and Kazama (燒肉風間) as well as Korean cuisine chains Xiao Ri Zi Restaurant (小日籽) and Halo HwangHak (黃鶴洞). All of them, Lin said, were continuing to make ongoing personnel shifts and scheduling changes to comply with the workweek law.

“We are implementing changes in a way that abides by the law and does not increase business costs by too much,” he said. “As long as there is not too much of an increase in costs, I can imagine that businesses will be willing to cooperate … After all, this is the law.”

But the costs increases haven’t been small. While some have accused business owners of using the labor law changes as an excuse to unnecessarily hike their prices, Lin says there have been very real cost increases — not only in personnel but also raw materials and operational costs. Lin cited that on average, his industry would see about a 10 to 20 percent rise in overall business costs in the future, with a 5 to 10 percent increase in personnel costs.

According to Lin, restaurants may indeed pass on some of these higher costs to diners.

Some may also choose not to operate on national holidays, when hourly pay is more than it would be during a normal working weekday or weekend, he said.

Thus far, Jing Xiang Group has not changed the operating hours for any of its restaurants. “We have so far been able to schedule people to work,” Lin said, but also noted that the group was not opposed to closing shop during lunch hour and opening only during dinner service for a few of its brands.

“If I don’t operate at noon, I’ll be losing out on previous revenues made during lunch hour,” Lin said, shedding light on the cost-benefit analysis that his group will undergo when figuring out whether to maintain operating hours and sustain a higher hourly wage or not.