Loopholes in the labour compensation system have discouraged workers from recovering unpaid wages, says Democrat legislator Albert Ho Chun-yan. Mr Ho and 10 workers held a meeting yesterday with Jennie Chor Chan Chui-yuk, the Labour Department's assistant commissioner for labour relations. The workers are each owed up to several hundred thousand dollars in lieu of notice or severance payments. Their various employers, who are still in business, have refused to pay them even after the workers took their cases to the Labour Tribunal and won. The only option in such a situation is to apply for bankruptcy of the employers or the winding up of the company. The workers would then be eligible for compensation from the Protection of Wages on Insolvency Fund, which is managed by the Labour Department, according to Mr Ho. But he said such legal proceedings would cost them about $30,000 each, including a handling fee of about $10,000 to the Official Receiver's Office and a lawyer. 'If there are partners running the company, the workers have to get several bankruptcy petitions. It's a large amount that the workers are not likely to be able to afford.' Mr Ho said workers should be exempt from paying the Official Receiver's Office. 'How can the Government alleviate poverty when it is not able to help these people out?' he asked. 'The workers are not asking for social assistance. They have worked hard and now they only ask for their reward.' 'There are loopholes in the whole system. The protection for the workers is not enough,' he said. The workers were also not entitled to legal aid because of the strict family financial assessment. He said the means test should be relaxed. The Labour Department said it had a mechanism to charge any employers who declined to make such payments while still running their business after the Labour Tribunal had made such a ruling.