Besieged paper begins hiring spree

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 May, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 May, 2006, 12:00am

Despite government lawsuit over unpaid wages, Sing Pao launches ad campaign

Embattled Sing Pao Daily News launched a massive recruitment campaign yesterday - the same day the Labour Department announced it was taking legal action against the company for failing to settle unpaid salaries.

The newspaper published a half-page advertisement for various posts, including technicians, graphic designers, advertising staff, editors, photographers and reporters for local, courts, business, sport, racing, mainland and Taiwan news.

The advertisement carried the title: 'Sunshine after the fog clears.'

Staff said the newspaper company had also posted a notice on Thursday announcing a 5 per cent pay rise for those workers who had stayed with the firm.

But staff remaining after a recent wave of resignations said the announcement did nothing to raise morale or rebuild confidence in their employer.

One, who refused to be named, said: 'Our confidence will continue to be shaky unless the company can make payments on time. We have only received salaries for March and still do not know whether the company will continue to make payments.'

Permanent Secretary for Economic Development and Labour Matthew Cheung Kin-chung announced yesterday that the department had decided to take legal action against the newspaper for allegedly breaching the Employment Ordinance.

'The legal procedures have been launched and the court will issue a summons against the newspaper within days,' Mr Cheung said. He was speaking after the opening of a seminar on labour relations in Causeway Bay yesterday.

The newspaper company refused to comment yesterday.

The Labour Department said it had received calls from 65 workers for assistance.

Of that number, eight had received unpaid salaries from the company, while 19 cases had been transferred to the Labour Tribunal.

The department said it was still seeking to liaise with remaining staff to settle the dispute.

According to the department, a total of 587 summonses against employers for unpaid salaries were issued last year, up 16 per cent from 504 the previous year. A total of 198 summonses were issued in the first four months of this year. Employers who fail to make salary payments face a $350,000 fine and three years in jail.

By the end of April, a total of 2,296 applications had been made to the Protection of Wages on Insolvency Fund - a drop of 38 per cent from 3,676 applications over the same period last year. A total of $4.58 million was paid out of the fund in the first four months, 30 per cent less than the $6.55 million paid last year.

The fund, set up in 1985, is financed by an annual levy of $600 on each business registration to provide ex-gratia payments to workers for insolvent employers.