Warning for MPF-dodging bosses

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 December, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 December, 2000, 12:00am

Employers were warned yesterday, the day the Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) was launched, that they could not escape paying their fair share.

Only about 135,000 employers, 54 per cent of those required to do so, had signed up by the deadline. About 1.44 million employees and 124,000 self-employed had joined, representing 71 per cent and 44 per cent, respectively, of those eligible.

Mandatory Provident Fund Schemes Authority chairman Charles Lee Yeh-kwong said: 'Compared with overseas experience, the 71 per cent compliance rate is a good start.' But the response to the industry MPF schemes for casual employees in the catering and construction sectors remained low. Only 33,100 workers have joined the schemes - about 17 per cent of the combined workforces.

MPFA managing director Rafael Hui Si-yan warned bosses against trying to evade contributions. 'We strongly urge employers not to become over-complacent in thinking they can get away by taking such courses of action,' he said.

Action against those not complying will begin from January 30.

But legislator and Federation of Trade Unions vice-chairman Leung Fu-wah said many employees were scared to go to the authorities. 'The workers have to choose either retaining their jobs or risk losing them by openly opposing their bosses,' he said.

Nearly 120 workers were sacked by a restaurant that changed hands hours before the MPF came into effect.

The workers from Wholeway Chinese Restaurant in Ho Man Tin met Labour Department officials yesterday to seek help in securing more than $1 million they claim they are owed in severance pay.

The 117 workers were axed after ownership of the restaurant changed on Thursday night, hours before implementation of the MPF.

Waitress Yip Lun-kwun, 36, was bitterly disappointed and claimed her boss had earlier convinced staff not to look for other jobs with a promise to pay their MPF. 'Six months ago business was really bad. Many people thought the restaurant was going to close and started to look for new jobs,' said Ms Yip, who earned $8,800 a month.

'Then the boss asked us not to leave and said he would pay for the workers' MPF. He even found some people to brief us on the scheme.' She said many staff were convinced and stayed on to help turn the business around. 'We were kept in the dark about the change of ownership until last night. I believe we have been sacked because of the MPF,' she said.

A colleague said he also believed the sackings were MPF-linked. 'It has something to do with the scheme. Actually the restaurant business is better than half a year ago,' he said.

Ms Yip said the sacked workers faced a bleak future.

The Labour Department has arranged a meeting between the workers and their former employer on Tuesday to discuss severance pay.

Graphic: MPF02XGET