The state of labour relations in Hong Kong remained harmonious. In 2003,
the Labour Relations Division of the Labour Department provided conciliation
service in 427 trade disputes, a decrease of one per cent over 2002. There
was only one work stoppage, resulting in the loss of 150 working days.
The average loss was 0.05 working day per 1 000 salaried
employees and wage-earners, which is among the lowest in the world. During
the year, the division handled 33 689 claims for wages and
other employment-related benefits or entitlements. This represented a
decrease of three per cent over 2002. About 65 per cent of the disputes
and claims in 2003 were settled through conciliation by the division —
a record high since 1997.
The Labour Department organises a wide variety of
activities to promote harmonious labour relations in Hong Kong. To enhance
public understanding of the Employment Ordinance, promotional activities
such as seminars and talks are organised and a wide range of publications
is produced for free distribution to the public. Also, the information
is widely publicised through the department's website and the mass media.
At the enterprise level, the department promotes good
labour management practices and effective communication. A network of
18 Human Resources Managers' Clubs has been established and experience-sharing
sessions and briefings are organised for human resources practitioners.
The department also promotes tripartite dialogue at the industry level
through the setting up of committees comprising representatives of employers,
employees and labour officials. With the assistance of the department,
nine tripartite committees have been formed, covering the catering, construction,
theatre, warehouse and cargo transport, property management, printing,
hotel and tourism, cement and concrete, and retail industries.
Trade unions must be registered under the Trade Unions Ordinance, which
is administered by the Registrar of Trade Unions. Once registered, a trade
union becomes a body corporate and enjoys immunity from certain civil
During the year, 29 new unions were registered. At
year-end, 689 unions (comprising 644 employee unions, 23 employers' associations,
and 22 mixed organisations of employees and employers) and three trade
union federations were registered under the ordinance.
About half of the employee unions are affiliated to
the following four major labour organisations registered under the Societies
Ordinance: the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions (149 affiliated unions),
the Hong Kong and Kowloon Trades Union Council (40 unions), the Hong Kong
Confederation of Trade Unions (57 unions), and the Federation of Hong
Kong and Kowloon Labour Unions (51 unions).
The Labour Advisory Board is a non-statutory body set up to advise the
Permanent Secretary for Economic Development and Labour (Labour) on matters
affecting labour, including legislation and conventions and recommendations
of the ILO. The Labour Advisory Board comprises 12 members. Six of them
represent employers, and another six represent employees. The Permanent
Secretary for Economic Development and Labour (Labour), is the ex officio
The board has set up five committees and one working
group on special subjects which cover employees' compensation, employment
services, occupational safety and health, labour relations, the implementation
of international labour standards and the processing of applications for
labour importation under the Supplementary Labour Scheme.
The Protection of Wages on Insolvency Fund is financed by an annual levy
of $600 on each business registration certificate with effect from May
2002. Employees who are owed wages and other employment termination benefits
by insolvent employers may apply to the fund for an ex gratia payment.
The fund covers arrears of wages not exceeding $36,000
accrued during a period of four months preceding the applicant's last
day of service; wages in lieu of notice for termination of employment
up to $22,500 or one month's wages, whichever is less; and
severance payment up to $50,000 plus 50 per cent of any entitlement
in excess of $50,000. In 2003, out of 22 042
applications processed, the fund disbursed a total of $468.2 million to
19 794 applications.