The Royal Hong Kong Golf Club took an 82-year-old caddy to court yesterday to challenge a Labour Tribunal ruling that he counted as one of their employees.
William Stone, for the club, said caddies were self-employed and the club simply acted as an agent between them and its members.
Cheng Yuen was awarded a $29,160 long-service payment and $4,680 wages in lieu of notice by the tribunal in February. It ruled he had been an employee of the club.
He was told in September he could no longer ply his trade at its Deep Water Bay course. Mr Cheng had worked as a caddy there for nine years.
Mr Stone said the club had no intention of pursuing Mr Cheng but wanted to clarify the position because of the importance of the ruling and the number of caddies operating at its two courses.
He argued the tribunal was wrong to classify Mr Cheng as an employee.
Mr Stone said caddies only turn up for work if they choose to and are only paid if their services are called upon.
This depends on the weather and the number of golfers playing at the time.
They have no written contract with the club, and no insurance cover, sick leave, holiday pay or pension scheme.
'They are independent contractors,' Mr Stone said.
He said the tribunal appeared to have taken the view that the control exercised by the club over the caddies puts them into the category of employees.
They wear uniforms provided by the club and are given instructions as to what their duties are.
But their fees, advanced by the club, are deducted from the accounts of the members who hire them, the court heard.
Mrs Justice Verina Bokhary is expected to rule on the appeal next week.