THE Security Branch was urged yesterday to push for more appeals against suspended jail sentences handed down to employers who hired illegal workers. The call came from legislator Lee Cheuk-yan in a meeting with Principal Assistant Secretary for Security Maureen Chan Mong-lin on the eve of the latest employment figures. Suspended sentences were a big problem, said Mr Lee, chief executive of the Confederation of Trade Unions. 'The system is not discouraging employers from hiring illegal workers.' Only 12 of 960 convicted employers received custodial sentences, he said. Another 74 were fined and given suspended sentences. The rest were fined. Mr Lee also asked the branch to study how to make the directors liable as well as the company. A Security Branch spokesman said last night it was 'considering ways to increase the deterrent effect . . . such as making prosecution of employers of illegal workers easier, and imposing heavier sentences'. The branch has proposed raising the maximum fine from $250,000 to $350,000. The three-year prison term will not be changed. The Government is to release the latest jobless figures today. And experts say they may rise slightly because of the slow economy. Hang Seng Bank economist Stanley Ng Yuet-ning expected the rate to rise or stay at its 11-year high of 3.6 per cent. 'Many shops are closing down and the unemployment rate will not come down in the short term,' he said. The Airport Authority is to open a job centre in response to criticism that it is doing too little to help local people work on the airport. The West Kowloon centre will enable contractors working on all airport core projects to advertise their vacancies and interview staff. But the chairman of the Hong Kong Construction Industry Employees' General Union, Poon To-chuen, said one office was not enough.