Disney ordered to reinstate sacked Hong Kong filmmaker

After a Beijing court ruled his sacking was unlawful, HK filmmaker says the company has failed to fully reinstate his original contract

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 11 March, 2013, 10:11am

The Walt Disney Company has been ordered to reinstate an employment contract with a Hong Kong filmmaker on the mainland after it was found to have unlawfully terminated the agreement.

But filmmaker Peter Tsi Ka-kei - who has been asked to "report for duty" today at the Hollywood giant's mainland arm in Beijing - says Disney has not fully restored the original contract as it is refusing to arrange his accommodation in Beijing.

"I was hired from Hong Kong. The original contract had a relocation arrangement, in which my accommodation in Beijing is the responsibility of Disney - which should pay up to 25,000 yuan (HK$30,800) a month," Tsi said. "If I haven't found a flat, I should live in a hotel approved and paid for by the company. I lived in the Park Hyatt for three months when I first began this job."

The Second Intermediate People's Court of Beijing handed down a final judgment on the prolonged dispute on February 16. It overthrew previous rulings, stating that the Walt Disney Company (Shanghai)'s action to prematurely terminate Tsi's three-year fixed contract, citing restructuring, was against the law. The South China Morning Post earlier reported that in 2011, Disney shut down local film production in China because of its global restructuring strategy.

Tsi was a theatrical creative vice-president for the company in Beijing. Disney said at the time that Tsi's job no longer existed because of the restructure, and he was being made redundant, with compensation of 794,424 yuan offered.

But Tsi rejected the offer, saying the payout was inappropriate. He argued that since he had signed a three-year contract with Disney in 2010, the company should pay the balance of his contract. In court, he sought about 2.8 million yuan in compensation - or for Disney to reinstate him as an employee.

After a series of court trials, the Beijing Chaoyang District People's Court ruled in July last year that Disney must pay Tsi 42,048 yuan - less than 2 per cent of the amount he was seeking. The court based its decision on a formula provided under the mainland's labour contract law.

Tsi appealed that ruling in November.

In the final judgment in February, the court ruled that Disney's action was unlawful and ordered the company to continue its contract with Tsi.

After lengthy negotiations, Tsi said he had been instructed to report for duty in Beijing - almost a month after the judgment was handed down.

Tsi last worked for Disney in July 2011. His original contract term was due to end on March 27.

Disney Asia-Pacific said it had received the court judgment and has been in regular communication with Tsi and his lawyer.

Another Hong Kong filmmaker is still embroiled in a legal battle of his own with Disney. Cary Cheng Kim-fung, its former director of physical production in Shanghai, also had his contract cut short and is seeking redress.