Hong Kong 2003
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Labour Relations

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

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 suits.

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).

Labour Advisory Board

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 chairman.

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.

Protection of Wages on Insolvency Fund

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.

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