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 people 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.
 

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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).

 

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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.
 

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Our Work and Achievements in 2009

Key indicators of Work

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

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Conciliation and Consultation Services

3.5 Our consultation and conciliation services have contributed to the maintenance of industrial peace. In 2009, we handled 83 547 in-person consultations, 143 labour disputes and 24 305 claims.  The number of labour disputes and claims handled in 2009 increased by 18 per cent compared with the figure of 20 743 cases in 2008.  The increase in labour disputes and claims handled in 2009 was largely due to the financial tsunami which triggered a series of business closures, insolvencies and redundancies. Despite the rise in the number of cases, the settlement rate was kept at a high level of 71.5% in 2009.  Seven strikes were recorded in the year. The number of working days lost per thousand salaried employees and wage earners was 0.36, among the lowest in the world.
(Figures 3.2 – 3.7)

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Proactive Efforts to Combat Wage Defaults

3.6 In 2009, the Labour Department continued to adopt a proactive strategy to tackle the problem of non-payment of wages at source through enhancing publicity and promotion, stepping up enforcement and prosecution, and making use of the early warning system set up in collaboration with trade unions to gather intelligence on non-payment of wages. We also proactively monitored selected sectors and establishments with a view to forestalling and detecting at an early stage cases of wages default and intervening early to tackle the problem.
 

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Strengthening Tripartite Co-operation

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 the industries. Matters of concern to the industries such as Human Swine Influenza, Qualifications Framework promulgated by the Government and legislating for minimum wage and anti-racial discrimination were deliberated in the year.

Members of tripartite committee visited a theatre.

Members of tripartite committee visited a theatre.

 

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Promotion of Good Employer-Employee Relations
3.8

To promote better public understanding of the EO and good people 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 covering different themes were produced for free distribution to the public. Relevant information is also disseminated through the department’s website and the media.

 

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3.9 We organised a number of experience-sharing sessions and briefings for human resources practitioners through our network of 18 Human Resources Managers Clubs. In the year, five roving exhibitions on EO and good people management measures were also organised over the territory attracting some 14 700 visitors.
Roving exhibition held in Kai Tin Shopping Centre, Lam Tin.

Roving exhibition held in Kai Tin Shopping Centre, Lam Tin.

 

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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.

 

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3.11 In 2009, the board recorded 2 200 claims amounting to $9,500,801 and concluded 2 355 claims with a total award of $5,280,117.
 

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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.

 

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3.13 In 2009, 22 new trade unions were registered, making up a cumulative total of four registered trade union federations and 812 registered trade unions (comprising 768 employee unions, 18 employer unions and 26 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
 

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3.14

In the year, the Registry of Trade Unions examined 647 statements of account and conducted 373 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.