Hard-pressed work tribunal sparks gripes

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 February, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 23 February, 1998, 12:00am

Tribunal staff dealing with labour complaints are beginning to complain themselves - of hard labour.

The workers want more hands to make light work of the surge in cases brought on by the economic downturn.

Some staff claim they are too busy to take sick leave, while others complain of having to take work home.

'Working in the Labour Tribunal is just like working in hell,' one presiding officer said. 'We simply do not have enough manpower to deal with the work.' Another presiding officer said most staff were spending at least two to three hours a day finishing their office work at home.

'No one dares take sick leave because their work would simply accumulate, like a snowball,' the officer said.

An officer who interviews parties and compiles reports for adjudicators before court proceedings also claimed that the labour disputes were growing more complex, and as a result, demand more time per case.

'We have a tendency to sacrifice quality for quantity to show we are doing a good job. We are helpless because complaining is no use,' the officer said.

Labour Tribunal Registrar Chu Wai-yin denied the department was understaffed and claimed the tribunal was operating below capacity at present.

He said the economic downturn had triggered more cases but there was no plan to increase staff numbers.

In 1995, 7,645 cases were filed to the tribunal and in 1996, there were 7,862 cases. Last year, the number fell to 6,319.

Claims involved disputes over wages in lieu of notice, annual leave pay, severance pay and long service payments.