Sing Pao broke vow on back pay, ex-staff say

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 February, 2008, 12:00am

Former Sing Pao Daily News employees were still at loggerheads with the newspaper's management yesterday over back pay, although payments made during a meeting last night partially eased the tension.

Before last night's meeting, a representative of the former workers, Li Wai-man, said management had broken its promise and settled only part of the unpaid wages.

'Some of my former colleagues should receive HK$40,000 to HK$50,000 in full payment, but management only paid them part of the amount. Management said it would settle the payment with us once and for all last week. Management is a pack of liars,' he said.

Last Thursday, the editor-in-chief of the Chinese-language newspaper, Alvin Poon Hee-chung, said the former employees would receive their unpaid wages in full on February 4.

'But the fact is the management still has not settled the entire payment with us,' Mr Li said. 'More than 100 former workers remain unpaid and we estimate that the total amount of unpaid wages is at least HK$3 million. How can the management say there are only 50 to 60 former workers waiting to get their money back? There are over 100.'

But last night, in a five-hour meeting with management, about 50 former employees, earlier yesterday paid part of their unpaid wages, were paid the rest in cash.

Mr Li said his group was still not happy because the amounts paid were discounted according to a court judgment and about five former staff members received nothing. He would keep fighting for 100 per cent settlement of salaries with accumulated interest and would meet management again on February 11 and 15.

He could not estimate how many former staff members were still owned money.

Mr Li said: 'We all want to end this issue soon.'

The newspaper has been dogged by disputes over unpaid salaries since 2004, with staff claiming they often had to wait up to three months for their monthly wages.

Before last night's meeting, Mr Poon said money had been transferred to most former workers' accounts and the firm had also confirmed receipt of the payments with the former employees.

'We have also prepared a few cashier's orders, as a number of them requested to receive their unpaid wages by cashier order,' he said.

But he declined to reveal how much money was involved. 'I am just carrying out orders from the management. I really do not know how much in total.'