Unionists query KMB's motive for offering early retirement

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 July, 2006, 12:00am

KMB has been asked to explain its motives for a voluntary early retirement scheme, which unions say is affecting staff morale.

KMB announced the scheme internally two days ago. All permanent staff who joined the company before January 1, 2000, can apply within the next month.

Under the scheme, a worker whose application is approved can receive a lump sum payment of between three to 13 months' pay, a spokeswoman for KMB said.

But the spokeswoman declined to give details, saying it was entirely voluntary.

Confederation of Trade Unions general secretary Lee Cheuk-yan said the biggest problem with the scheme was that it was unclear what the motive behind it was.

'Is there redundancy within the company? Is it a means of getting more experienced people to leave? If it is a lay-off disguised as voluntary retirement? They should tell [staff] whether there are going to be any staff cuts,' he said.

Mr Lee said KMB's move was a 'humiliation to the staff's professional dignity' and that a climate of fear was already emerging as employees are worrying about their job security if they did not voluntarily retire.

Unionist legislator Wong Kwok-hing said the scheme was a way of cutting costs by replacing permanent staff with contract workers, whom he said KMB had been hiring for the past decade.

'I am extremely unhappy with the situation,' Mr Wong said. 'They are using a bit of inducement to replace permanent staff with contract staff when experienced staff should be valued assets.'

KMB managing director John Chan Cho-chak said whatever terms were used to describe the scheme, there was no pressure on staff to retire.

The scheme was voluntary and should not affect morale, he added.