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Labour Department's response to media enquiries

     In response to media enquiries about the closing down of DSC, a spokesman for the Labour Department today (August 5) gave the following reply:

     "The Labour Department (LD) is highly concerned about the impact of the closing down of DSC on its employees. We are proactively providing assistance to the affected employees."

     The spokesman said that since the closing down of DSC, the LD has immediately rendered assistance to the affected employees through the branch offices of the Labour Relations Division of the department, including briefing them on employment benefits and assisting them to register their claims.

     "The LD has immediately set up an enquiry hotline (Tel: 2927 7008) to handle enquiries of the affected employees regarding their employment benefits. Another dedicated hotline (Tel: 2342 0486) was also set up on the same day to answer enquiries on employment services. Employees who have not yet registered should contact the LD as soon as possible," he said.

     On employment services, the LD has at the same time set up special counters at the department's 13 Job Centres across the territory to offer employment assistance to the affected employees of DSC. The affected employees may also make use of the free employment services provided by the LD's Recruitment Centre for the Retail Industry in Wan Chai (Tel: 2594 7833). The Recruitment Centre specialises in providing the latest vacancy information on the retail industry and regularly organises recruitment activities for the industry. Job seekers may attend on-the-spot job interviews with employers at the Recruitment Centre. For details of the latest recruitment activities, job seekers may visit the LD's Interactive Employment website (

     Besides, the affected employees may also attend the three-day large-scale job fairs to be organised by the LD at Sha Tin Town Hall between August 19 and 21. About 70 companies, including many employers from the retail industry, will offer about 5 800 vacancies and accept applications on the spot. Details of the job fairs are available from the Interactive Employment website.

     The spokesman added that the LD has so far registered over 300 claims of the affected employees seeking recovery of outstanding wages and compensations for termination of employment. "The LD has registered details of the items of their claims. We will also continue to assist them proactively in settling the unpaid wages and other compensations under the Employment Ordinance, including lining up conciliation meetings and making arrangements on other related claims procedures," he said.

     The spokesman emphasised that the LD will continue to follow up on the incident closely. The department will continue to work hard to seek to establish contact with the employer or his representative and the director(s) via different channels to find out details of the incident and to assist the employees in settling claims through civil litigation.

     On the related procedures, the spokesman explained, "If the employer and employee fail to reach consensus over the claims of the employee, the LD will refer the claimant to the Labour Tribunal under the Judiciary for adjudication. If the employer fails to pay the sum of claims awarded by the Labour Tribunal, or if the employer is proven unable to pay his debts, the LD will assist the claimant to apply for the ex gratia payment from the Protection of Wages on Insolvency Fund (PWIF)."

     As regards the procedures on the application for the ex gratia payment from PWIF, the spokesman further elaborated that, "The presentation of a winding-up or bankruptcy petition is a prerequisite for ex gratia payment from PWIF. If necessary, the LD will assist to refer employees of DSC to the Legal Aid Department in presenting petition against their insolvent employer."

     At present, the maximum amount of ex gratia payment that an employee can receive from PWIF is $289,000. The amount includes $36,000 in respect of wages for four months, $22,500 in respect of wages in lieu of one month's notice, severance payment up to $50,000 plus 50 per cent of the remainder of the entitlement, and a payment ceiling of $10,500 in respect of the annual leave pay for the annual leave accumulated and not yet taken by the employee in the last two leave years and/or the payment for untaken statutory holidays in the last four months.

     The LD pledges to arrange for granting of the ex gratia payment from PWIF to the applicants within 10 weeks upon receipt of all the information and documents required (including the awards of the Labour Tribunal). The LD will expedite the processing of the applications of DSC's employees. The time required for processing and verifying each application will depend on whether sufficient information and evidence has been provided. The LD will grant payment as soon as possible and practicable.

     The spokesman reiterated that the LD attaches great importance to combating wage offences and is very concerned about non-payment of wages. "If there is sufficient evidence to indicate that the company concerned has defied the law wilfully, the department will commence investigation promptly and consider initiating prosecution action against the company and its director(s) or other responsible person(s)," he said.

     Under the Employment Ordinance, an employer commits an offence if he wilfully and without reasonable excuse fails to pay wages within seven days from last day of the wage period or upon termination of employment, and is liable to a maximum penalty of $350,000 and three years' imprisonment.

     "The LD urges employees of DSC to come forward as prosecution witnesses against their employer if the employer is found to defy the law wilfully and commit wage offences, so that we can follow it up and commence investigation promptly. We are also keeping close contact with other law enforcement departments concerned to follow up on the incident," the spokesman said.

Ends/Wednesday, August 5, 2015
Issued at HKT 22:39


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