The labour department chief yesterday pledged to take tougher measures to ensure construction workers - the commonest victims of wage offences - are paid on time. Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, permanent secretary for economic development and labour, said workers' problems with unpaid or late wages would be solved through various measures, including prosecution of offending bosses. Forty summonses for wage offences from January to April resulted in convictions, a 38 per cent year-on-year increase. The courts have also been imposing heavier penalties. A construction firm recently was fined $140,000 for failing to pay wages and entitled benefits to an employee, while two employers were sentenced to jail over similar offences. The maximum penalty for a wage offence is a $200,000 fine and a year in prison, but the government is considering increasing it to $350,000 and three years in jail. Under a pilot scheme slated for autumn, the government will pay contractors only after officials have seen bank receipts for workers' pay, and the number of subcontractors will be limited to one or two.