Prosecutions over unpaid wages increased 10 per cent last year, with 171 summonses being issued to employers who failed to pay amounts awarded by the Labour Tribunal. In one case an employer was fined HK$70,000 while another had to serve an immediate two-week jail term. Secretary for Labour and Welfare Matthew Cheung Kin-chung told legislators at a panel meeting that the government was concerned about the failure of some employees in obtaining unpaid wages awarded by the Labour Tribunal. 'We hope the heavy sentences have sent a strong message to employers that breaches of the Employment Ordinance are serious offences,' Mr Cheung said in reply to a question from lawmaker Tsang Yok-sing. He added that the maximum penalty for wage offences had been increased from a fine of HK$200,000 and imprisonment for one year to a fine of HK$350,000 and imprisonment for three years since last March. Labour Department figures show the tribunal handled about 5,600 cases to recover outstanding wages in the first 11 months last year - with HK$235 million awarded to employees in more than 4,300 cases. Unionist legislator Lee Cheuk-yan urged the government and judiciary to provide a full solution.