Chapter 3 Labour Relations
The Programme of Labour Relations
           (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. 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.
  go to top
   
3.2 The principal legislation administered by this programme area includes the Employment Ordinance (EO), the Labour Relations Ordinance (LRO), the Minor Employment Claims Adjudication Board Ordinance (MECABO) and the Trade Unions Ordinance (TUO).
  go to top
   
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 for in the LRO. The MECABO 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.
  go to top
   
Our Work and Achievements in 2007
Key Indicators of Work
3.4 Some key indicators of work of the Labour Relations Programme Area are contained in Figure 3.1.
  go to top
   
Amendments to the Employment Ordinance
3.5 In 2007, the EO was amended to adopt a new mode of calculation to ensure that all components of wages as defined under the EO, including contractual commission, were included in the calculation of relevant statutory entitlements.
  go to top
   
Conciliation and Consultation Services
3.6 Our consultation and conciliation services have contributed to the maintenance of industrial peace. In 2007, we handled 85 168 in-person consultations, 124 labour disputes and 21 698 claims. The number of labour disputes and claims handled in 2007 was down by 13 per cent compared with the figure of 25 157 cases in 2006. It was the lowest since 1998. Altogether 71.7 per cent of the cases handled in 2007 were resolved amicably through conciliation, the highest settlement rate since 1994. Three strikes were recorded in 2007. As a result, the number of working days lost per thousand salaried employees and wage earners was 2.62. Though the number of working days lost is higher as compared with previous years due to the strike by bar-benders in the year, the figure is still among the lowest in the world. (Figures 3.2 - 3.7)
  go to top
   
Proactive Efforts to Combat Wage Defaults
3.7 In 2007, the Labour Department maintained its 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, we made use of the early warning system set up in collaboration with trade unions to gather intelligence on non-payment of wages. The exercise codenamed Operation COMBAT continued to proactively forestall problematic restaurants from evading their liabilities to pay wages and achieved notable results.
  go to top
   
Strengthening Tripartite Co-operation
3.8 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 the industries.
  go to top
   
Promotion of Good Employer-Employee Relations
3.9 To promote better public understanding of the EO and good labour management practices, we organised various promotional activities such as seminars, talks and roving exhibitions for employers, employees, human resources professionals and members of the public. A wide range of publications were produced for free distribution to the public, including a booklet introducing in simple terms selected court cases under the EO together with advice on good people management. In connection with the implementation of the Employment (Amendment) Ordinance 2007 (E(A)O), a series of promotional activities were carried out to help various stakeholders understand the provisions. A guide was produced to set out major changes under the E(A)O. Besides, a new booklet with sample wage and employment records was published to help employers comply with the record keeping requirements. Both publications were widely distributed and uploaded onto the department's website for public viewing. Moreover, 55 briefings on the E(A)O were organised for employers, employees, human resources practitioners, trade unions officials, officers of non-governmental organisations and professional bodies. Over 5 500 participants were recorded.
 
Roving exhibitions organised to promote better public understanding of the Employment Ordinance and good people management practices.
Roving exhibitions organised to promote better public understanding of the Employment Ordinance and good people management practices.
  go to top
   
3.10 We organised experience-sharing sessions and briefings for human resources practitioners through our network of 18 Human Resources Managers' Clubs.
  go to top
   
Adjudication of Minor Employment Claims
3.11 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.
  go to top
   
3.12 In 2007, the board recorded 2 142 claims amounting to $8,644,084 and concluded 2 276 claims with a total award of $4,789,350.
  go to top
   
Regulation of Trade Unions
3.13 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.
  go to top
   
3.14 In 2007, 18 new trade unions were registered, making up a cumulative total of three registered trade union federations and 775 registered trade unions (comprising 731 employee unions, 21 employer unions and 23 mixed organisations of employees and employers). Please refer to the following webpage for the key trade union statistics: www.labour.gov.hk/eng/labour/content3.htm
  go to top
   
3.15 In the year, the Registry of Trade Unions examined 676 statements of account and conducted 370 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 three courses on trade union bookkeeping, auditing and provisions of the TUO.