More than 100 aircraft maintenance trainees from the mainland are seeking help from the Labour Department to recover wages they claim are owed to them by Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Co (Haeco) under a two-year training programme.
Lawmaker Ip Wai-ming, a representative of the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions who is helping the trainees, said the government had a responsibility to look into the matter.
But a Labour Department spokesman said that according to the contracts the trainees signed, they did not have an employee-employer relationship with Haeco.
'The Labour Department is in touch with relevant parties, including the Immigration Department, the union and Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Company Limited, to seek more understanding of the incident,' the spokesman said. The training programme between Taikoo (Xiamen) Aircraft Engineering Co (Taeco) and Haeco has been halted as a result of the dispute.
Taeco management representatives said they met 31 trainees yesterday but were arranging for all 142 trainees to return to Xiamen, where it is hoped the matter can be resolved.
The dispute revolves around accusations that the trainees were being used as cheap labour by Haeco.
The company denied exploiting them. It said the trainees enjoyed annual leave, statutory holidays and compensation leave.
The trainees were contracted to receive 286 hours of training at Haeco each month for two years.
They would be paid HK$3,932.50 a month and HK$14 for every hour of overtime.
The contract did not specify the maximum number of hours of work each day, although some trainees complained of working 10 hours instead of the allotted eight. Some said they were forced to accept payment in lieu of some statutory holidays.
Taeco said trainees join the programme, which started in 1993, voluntarily.
Haeco, which is majority-owned by Swire Pacific, controls 56.55 per cent of Taeco. Haeco mainly operates heavy airframe maintenance facilities at Hong Kong International Airport.