Concern at bosses' failure to pay wages

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 April, 2008, 12:00am

Ministers discussing possibility of new law

The top echelons of the administration are concerned about the failure of some bosses to pay their workers' salaries and MPF contributions, the justice minister said yesterday.

He said he would study whether a new or revised law was needed.

Wong Yan-lung introduced his department's expenditure estimates for the financial year at a special meeting of the Legislative Council's Finance Committee.

He said several times that 'very high levels of government' had been discussing how to ensure employers paid wages and Mandatory Provident Fund contributions.

Unionist lawmaker Wong Kwok-hing asked how the justice department, which had its budget increased 9 per cent this year, would better ensure the enforcement of Labour Tribunal decisions against employers, making reference to Sing Pao Daily News' continued failure to pay salaries and MPF contributions on time.

Mr Wong noted that the Labour Tribunal had handled more than 6,000 cases in each of the past two years. 'But were they all enforced? From what I can see, no they were not enforced. Just look at the Sing Pao case.'

Two days ago, Sing Pao Daily News was fined for delaying payment of wages and annual leave to 12 former employees who were sacked or resigned last year. The newspaper was fined HK$112,000 after pleading guilty to 28 charges regarding delayed payments of nearly HK$400,000 from September 2006 to October last year, although those employees had since been paid.

Sing Pao was fined HK$135,000 yesterday for failing to make MPF contributions, and the prosecution said a HK$80,000 fine previously imposed on the newspaper for a similar offence had still not been paid.

The justice minister said: 'We are aware of this and very concerned. As you may know, [labour minister] Matthew Cheung Kin-chung is very anxious about this issue and has already expressed his concern to us, the department of justice.'

Mr Wong said his department was now studying how to give extra help on enforcing the decisions of Labour Tribunals, 'and how to target ... the so-called bad employers, and take follow-up action with them'.

He said he agreed to a certain extent with Civic Party lawmaker Alan Leong Kah-kit's assessment that one of the main problems was that it was left to employees themselves to enforce tribunal decisions and recover their wages. However, he could not yet offer a solution.

'To be honest, we have no fixed direction yet,' said Mr Wong, saying he was still considering views and various options.

Despite his lack of concrete proposals, several lawmakers said they welcomed the change in tone from the government, which showed it now took the issue seriously.