Caddie loses in drive for 'fair' deal

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 January, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 January, 1997, 12:00am

An 83-year-old retired golf caddie was yesterday denied a $33,000 pension which was awarded to him by the High Court - but has vowed to fight on.

The Labour Tribunal awarded Cheng Yuen a $29,160 long-service payment and $4,680 in wages in lieu of notice after he was released by the Royal Hong Kong Golf Club in September 1995. The decision was upheld by a High Court judge.

But yesterday, the ruling was overturned in the Court of Appeal which, despite being sympathetic to Mr Cheng's case, said he was not entitled to the benefits because he had never been a full-time employee of the club.

Mr Cheng, disappointed with the judgment, has vowed to take the case to the Privy Council in London as long as he is granted Legal Aid.

'It's a matter of fairness . . . I'll fight until I can no longer do so,' he said after the hearing.

Appeal Court judge Mr Justice Gerald Nazareth said: 'One cannot but have some sympathy for him.

'He turned up almost every day of the week, arriving for the first golf session which began at six in the morning and going home at five in the afternoon.' But Mr Justice Nazareth said according to the law he was not entitled to the money because he had only ever been a self-employed casual worker.

The decision potentially affects the club's 600 caddies.

Mr Cheng, who worked at the club's Deep Water Bay course carrying 14-kilogram golf bags for Hong Kong's rich and famous, arrived in the territory from China in the 1950s.

He first worked as a farmer and then switched to construction work.

He joined the club 10 years ago and earned an average daily wage of $180.

Mr Cheng, who lives with his wife, son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren in a Chai Wan public estate, said he had planned to use the money to pay for trips back to his home on the mainland.

'Now I won't be able to afford to do that,' he said.

The case was heard before Mr Justice Nazareth, Mr Justice Simon Mayo and Mr Justice Charles Ching.