Leading employers' groups are pressing the post-handover government for a reform of labour importation policy to allow more overseas workers into the territory. The move would see the end of the current quota system and the Government's power to vet individual cases. It has been submitted to handover leader Tung Chee-hwa by an alliance including the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce, the Employers' Federation of Hong Kong and the Federation of Hong Kong Industries. But the plan was described as 'outrageous' by unionist legislator Lee Cheuk-yan, who claimed it was only to be expected from a Special Administrative Region leadership dominated by businessmen. During a meeting with the Chief Executive-designate - who is on record as wanting to help local industry after the handover - the alliance suggested the adoption of a fixed local/imported workers ratio for different sectors. Instead of having to submit every case for official vetting, companies could recruit overseas staff using the number of places allocated to them. The groups also rejected using Hong Kong's median wage as a fixed salary level for imported workers. Instead it wants salary levels of workers' country of origin to be taken into account, with the difference between local wages reflected in a levy charged by the Government. The levy could then be used for retraining local workers, it said. Post-handover executive councillor Henry Tang Ying-yen backed the plan, saying it would help ease the territory's tight labour supply. Mr Tang, who represents the textile and manufacturing industry in the Legislative Council, said factories should be able to employ as many imported workers as they did local staff. He said the proposal was 'very mild' compared to Singapore where the ratio was seven imported workers to one local worker. 'Many industries are suffering because the current labour importation scheme is too rigid and lacks flexibility. If factories collapse, workers will be the only victims,' he said. The labour importation scheme, introduced in 1989, initially allowed 3,000 workers into the territory on two-year contracts, but the quota was later raised to 25,000. It was replaced early last year with a supplementary scheme which sees individual applications approved on their merit within a quota of 2,000. Employers are required to go through a number of recruitment procedures before their applications are vetted. But Mr Lee, of the Confederation of Trade Unions, said the proposal threatened job opportunities for local people. 'It will remove the ceiling on the number of workers imported. Local workers will no longer be considered a priority for job vacancies,' he said. He noted that Hong Kong would continue to get new labour supply with the inflow of new immigrants envisaged over the next few years.