CHAPTER 3
LABOUR RELATIONS

The Programme of Labour Relations

(http://www.labour.gov.hk/eng/labour/content.htm)

   
3.1

In Hong Kong, employer and employee relations are largely premised on the freely negotiated terms and conditions of employment entered into between the two parties. Employers and employees in Hong Kong are free to form trade unions and participate in union activities. Trade unions are required to be registered under the Trade Unions Ordinance. The objective of the Labour Relations Programme is to maintain and promote harmonious labour relations in the non-government sector. We achieve this by:

  • giving advice on matters relating to conditions of employment, provisions of the Employment Ordinance and good people management practices;
  • providing voluntary conciliation service to help employers and employees resolve their employment claims and disputes;
  • promoting understanding of labour laws and encouraging good labour management practices;
  • adjudicating minor employment claims speedily through the Minor Employment Claims Adjudication Board; and
  • registering and regulating trade unions to bring about sound and responsible trade union administration.
   
3.2 The principal legislation administered by this programme area includes the Employment Ordinance (EO), the Labour Relations Ordinance, the Minor Employment Claims Adjudication Board Ordinance and the Trade Unions Ordinance (TUO).
 
The Labour Department produces a brief guide on the main provisions of the Employment Ordinance. The Labour Department produces a brief guide on the main provisions of the Employment Ordinance.
   
3.3 With the provision of a comprehensive set of employment standards, the EO is the main piece of legislation governing conditions of employment in the non-government sector. The procedures for settling labour disputes in the non-government sector are provided in the Labour Relations Ordinance. The Minor Employment Claims Adjudication Board Ordinance establishes a machinery known as the Minor Employment Claims Adjudication Board (MECAB) to adjudicate minor employment claims when settlement cannot be achieved by conciliation. For the regulation of trade unions, the TUO provides a statutory framework for trade union registration and administration.
   

Our Work and Achievements in 2005

Key Indicators of Work

   
3.4

Some key indicators of work of the Labour Relations Programme Area are contained in Figure 3.1.

   

Conciliation and Consultation Services

3.5

Our consultation and conciliation services have contributed to the maintenance of industrial peace. In 2005, we handled 109 959 in-person consultations, 237 labour disputes and 25 952 claims. The number of labour disputes and claims handled in 2005 was down by nine percentage points on the figure of 28 666 cases in 2004. It was the lowest since 1998. Altogether 69.8 per cent of the cases handled in 2005 were resolved amicably through conciliation, the highest settlement rate since 1994. Only one strike was recorded in 2005. As a result, the number of working days lost per thousand salaried employees and wage earners was 0.03, which is among the lowest in the world. (Figures 3.2-3.7)

   
Proactive Efforts to Combat Wage Defaults
3.6 In 2005, the Labour Department adopted a proactive strategy to tackle the problem of non-payment of wages at source. In addition to enhancing publicity and promotion, and stepping up enforcement and prosecution, an early warning system was set up in collaboration with trade unions to gather intelligence on non-payment of wages. A pilot exercise codenamed Operation COMBAT was launched to proactively forestall problematic restaurants from evading their liabilities to pay wages. The exercise achieved notable results. To enhance the deterrent effect of the EO on wage offences, a bill was introduced into the Legislative Council in December, 2005 to raise the maximum penalty for wage offences from a fine of $200,000 and imprisonment for one year to a fine of $350,000 and imprisonment for three years. The new penalty will take effect from 30 March, 2006.
   
Strengthening Tripartite Cooperation
3.7 To promote tripartite collaboration at the industry level with a view to fostering harmonious labour relations, nine industry-based tripartite committees have been set up in the catering, construction, theatre, logistics, property management, printing, hotel and tourism, cement and concrete as well as retail industries. These tripartite committees provide useful forums for representatives of employers, employees and the Government to discuss issues of common concern in these industries. In 2005, we focused our efforts on promoting industry-specific good people management practices in collaboration with the tripartite committees. To this end, we have prepared guidebooks highlighting good human resources management practices for specific industries. In November, a large-scale seminar was organised for the catering industry to promote good people management among traders.
 
Permanent Secretary for Economic Development and Labour (Labour), Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, speaks at a large-scale seminar organised for the catering industry. Permanent Secretary for Economic Development and Labour (Labour), Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, speaks at a large-scale seminar organised for the catering industry.
   

Promotion of Good Employer-Employee Relations

3.8

To promote better public understanding of the EO and good labour management practices, various promotional activities such as briefings and seminars were organised for employers, employees and human resources professionals. A wide range of publications was produced for free distribution to the public, including a question-and-answer booklet on major provisions of the EO that was designed in a lively fashion to attract readership. Publicity information was also disseminated through the mass media.

   
3.9

We had established a network of 18 Human Resources Managers' Clubs and organised experience-sharing sessions and briefings for human resources practitioners.

   

Adjudication of Minor Employment Claims

3.10

The Minor Employment Claims Adjudication Board provides a speedy, informal and inexpensive adjudication service to members of the public. It is empowered to determine employment claims involving not more than 10 claimants for a sum not exceeding $8,000 per claimant.

   
3.11

In 2005, the board recorded 2 522 claims amounting to $10,278,461 and concluded 2 539 claims with a total award of $5,886,713.

   

Regulation of Trade Unions

3.12

The Registry of Trade Unions is responsible for the promotion of sound and responsible trade union administration, and is entrusted with the statutory duty to register trade unions, process and register their rules, and examine their annual audited statements of account to ensure that trade unions comply with the TUO.

   
3.13

In 2005, 28 new trade unions were registered while three trade unions were deregistered, making up a cumulative total of three registered trade union federations and 729 registered trade unions (comprising 686 employee unions, 21 employer unions and 22 mixed organisations of employees and employers). Please refer to the following webpage for the key trade union statistics: http://www.labour.gov.hk/eng/labour/content3.htm.

   
3.14

In the year, the Registry of Trade Unions examined 657 statements of account and conducted 366 inspection visits to trade unions to ensure that their administration and financial management were in compliance with the TUO. To facilitate trade union officers in acquiring knowledge of union law and management, the Registry organised four courses on trade union bookkeeping, auditing and provisions of the TUO.