HK deputies urge Beijing to clarify Labour Contract Law

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 March, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 March, 2009, 12:00am

Hong Kong deputies to the National People's Congress have asked the country's top court to clarify the controversial Labour Contract Law to reduce disputes between firms operating on the mainland and their mainland employees over compensation.

Thirty of the 36 local members of the NPC have signed a paper, which will be submitted during the annual plenary session in Beijing.

The non-binding proposal urged the Supreme People's Court to issue a judiciary explanation stating the range of compensation for laid-off workers so that regional courts could rule accordingly. It said there had been contradicting interpretations of the law by different courts, particularly on the issue of retrospective compensation claims.

'Since the Labour Contract Law was implemented last year, it has triggered much worry and radical reactions in society. Fearing a rise in labour costs, many businesses have ceased operations, closed down or moved factories, while others have laid off staff or signed new contracts with them to avoid unpredictable compensation,' the deputies wrote.

They also said the law should give a clearer definition of labour. Some members said contract staff and senior management of companies should be excluded from the law, the paper said.

Many Hong Kong businesses operating on the mainland have complained that the new law has increased their costs and threatened their survival amid the global financial crisis. The Hong Kong NPC deputies suggested that the Guangdong government consult private and foreign companies more widely before it launched a new ordinance on corporate governance.

In the long term, the local deputies said the labour law should be amended to relax the cap on overtime hours, which is currently set at 36 hours a month. It was proposed that the limit be changed to 432 hours a year, to provide flexibility for high and low seasons.

Local deputy Wong Kwok-kin, who also chairs the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, said he would not sign the proposal because it would be against the union's policy.