Salesmen sacked 'to deny them payouts'

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 January, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 January, 2010, 12:00am

Insurance agents say that despite having handed in resignation letters, the companies they work for are firing them anyway to get out of paying commissions and pensions.

The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions received 32 complaints from insurance agents last year, against 15 cases in 2008. Three companies are involved.

The 32 agents said they had yet to receive about HK$8 million from their companies. However, because of the contracts they signed, they are classed as 'self-employed' and cannot get help from the Labour Department.

One agent resigned from AXA in August last year, only to be fired by the company two weeks later.

The company said he had been 'dishonest', though it gave no details the agent said yesterday.

Other AXA employees appear to have been fired for the same reason. 'It's hard to define dishonesty. They can say I'm dishonest if I don't return them a key,' a ex-manager said.

The former manager claims the company owes him HK$3 million including provident fund and commissions.

'Even if a court case cost me HK$1 million, I would still do it to claim my HK$3 million back,' he said.

Confederation of Trade Unions vice-chairwoman Cheung Lai-ha demanded the government broaden the definition of employees to protect the self-employed.

Lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan said it was not a criminal offence when insurance companies breached a contract signed with the agents if they were not formal employees.

Any dispute would have to be settled in a civil court, he said.

AXA provides commissions and benefits in accordance with the terms and conditions of the relevant agency contracts, a company spokeswoman said. The former agents were terminated because of breaches of their agency contracts, she said.

'However, due to personal privacy issues, it is not appropriate for AXA to provide further comments,' she said.