$3,200 payday for laid-off workers

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 April, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 10 April, 2006, 12:00am

$2m donation will not affect claims against contractor

More than 600 workers locked in a dispute over unpaid wages with subcontractors hired by government contractor Dickson Construction received cheques for $3,200 each yesterday, thanks to a $2 million private donation.

The money came as timely Easter present for the workers, some of whom have not been paid for 11 months, according to the Hong Kong Construction Industry Employees General Union.

A total of 619 workers received cheques at the union's office in Mongkok yesterday.

Union spokesman Fung Kin-chor said workers were encouraged by the gesture.

'$3,200 each might not sound very much but would be a big gift to the affected workers. Some have had to borrow money from friends for their living expenses, others are facing eviction because they have no money to pay rent,' said Mr Fung.

He would not say who the donors were or the number of donors involved but said the money would not affect the workers' claim for unpaid wages to be settled by Dickson Construction and the subcontractors.

The dispute began in January when the Housing Authority terminated Dickson Construction's contracts on three public estate projects and took the company to court because of serious delays.

More than 600 workers have appealed to the Labour Department for help over unpaid wages of nearly $10 million.

The union is helping the workers submit legal claims against the contractor and apply to the government's insolvency fund.

Following the row, the government has unveiled plans to tighten controls over its contractors and their subcontractors.

Under the new arrangements, contractors will be required to pay their workers through direct bank transfer and keep detailed records of the workers they hire.