PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 11 April, 2008, 12:00am

Should failure to pay wages be a criminal offence?

The secretary for labour and welfare has proposed to the secretary for justice that non-payment of wages be criminalised and that asset limits imposed on legal-aid applicants should be relaxed ('1 in 7 bosses ignores orders to pay staff',

April 7).

This proposal is bound to meet fierce opposition from employers' groups and representatives because of various excuses.

Such a proposal is a direct response to the statistics, in your report, that one in seven employers who lost legal battles over wages disputes still ignored a court order to pay up.

If we merely beef up the existing system of civil penalties, the result might be that the court would just order the employer to pay the penalty for non-payment or delayed payment.

This is unfair to the workers who have won their legal battle but then have to drain all their resources to fight to recover the money they are owed.

Our society should not allow this. Criminalisation of such behaviour might be one way of solving the problem.

However, there are many other side issues that need to be resolved before non-payment of wages is criminalised.

One of the most important issues is whether it should be criminalised under a strict liability regime.

This might resolve the problem of some company directors using the lame excuse of having 'no knowledge' [of an offence being committed] to avoid liability.

Any legal review would also have to examine the loophole whereby the company concerned is a shell company, set up without any real assets so that it can avoid liability.

The Justice Department needs to look into these matters promptly so that this social problem is resolved once and for all. I believe most Hongkongers would support the proposal for criminalisation.

H. C. Bee, Kowloon Tong

Should the sex trade be legalised?

The sex trade should be legalised and its workers should be protected regardless of whether they are male or female.

Sexual desire is part of human nature. The ideal situation is to have a life partner, but things may not turn out as we would wish.

Legalising the sex trade would lead to proper business registration, with sex workers paying tax and getting regular health checks.

Also, terms and conditions could be imposed before a sex worker was granted permission to operate his or her business. One condition should be that the workers and their customers practise safe sex.

I believe that the majority of people who are sex workers would not choose to be involved in this business if they had other options.

If they choose to do this because they need to survive or need to take care of their families rather then rely on welfare, then they deserve some respect from our community.

K. H. Wong, Discovery Bay

On other matters ...

My coronary-inducing story begins with the foolish decision to move house.

I called PCCW to move my broadband service. After numerous calls trying to work out the right combination of numbers to press, I was told they would call me back. No response. After calling many times, I was finally told of a technical problem and that there would be a wait of more than a month. I was also told their own phone system didn't allow them to contact the technical department directly to give me a definite date. After one month passed, there was no call. Again, after multiple calls, I was told of another two-week wait, which means paying for a service I could not use for six weeks.

The next step was changing my mailing address with HSBC. As they are only open for three days on Lamma Island and only provide three counters at my workplace (the University of Hong Kong) for thousands of students and staff, I rang them up. There is no option for changing a mailing address so I selected the option for checking my balance and was put on hold for 25 minutes. After that, I was told I had to go into a branch for this.

The last fatal mistake was deciding to travel to Hanoi with Asiamiles. After a 20-minute wait, I was told they had to confirm first with Vietnam Airlines and I was asked to call back. When I pointed out that it was quite difficult to get through, the officer said he would call me back (he didn't) and that I could also check my booking status online (no, you can't). For two days I tried to call and got the busy signal every time except once when I was forced to leave a message. No response. I left a message online. No response. I finally talked to them at 8am (after over 30 minutes on hold), was told the flight was full and they suggested I try other days. I agreed and they then had the audacity to ask me to call them back to confirm.

What do we have to do to get the bare minimum of customer service? I hope there is no link between excessive mobile use and brain cancer, as has been mentioned in your paper recently, otherwise I am ready for the grave.

Miranda Legg, Lamma

I refer to the report 'HK's youth most conservative about sex, global survey finds', (March 28).

I started to read the story with interest, as our company has been involved in similar studies in other regional markets. However, I became concerned when I read that the [Body Shop, MTV Networks International] survey had been done online.

There was no mention of aspects of the survey such as sample size, method of selection and margin of error, which causes me to have doubts about the survey.

The main issue is simple - an 'online' survey as a sole descriptor is fairly meaningless. Was this a panel? If so, whose panel? What was the membership profile? Or was it a Web link available to people accessing either of the sponsors' websites, who, by definition, will have their own rather specific profile?

In either case, there is no evidence to support the notion that the survey is in fact representative of 'Hong Kong youth' and not just a possibly skewed and narrowly defined segment of the city's young people.

We also need to consider how the questions were phrased, as well as if the respondents actually believed that their findings would remain anonymous, and many more issues.

Without going into detail, the findings are somewhat at odds with other data we have seen on this topic.

Irwin Hankins, president, The Research Pacific Group