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Labour Department responds to media enquiries on Asia Television Limited

     In response to media enquiries about Asia Television Limited (ATV), a spokesman for the Labour Department (LD) today (June 6) gave the following reply:

     The LD is highly concerned about ATV's defaults in wage payment. As soon as the LD noted the wage defaults in early September 2015, more than 10 inspections were conducted at ATV's head office in Tai Po to launch surveillance and evidence collecting actions for suspected wage offences. Furthermore, LD staff made efforts in investigating complaints lodged by ATV's ex-employees by taking statements and collecting evidence from some 30 of them who were willing to act as prosecution witnesses. ATV's representatives, directors and management/responsible persons were also interviewed. After a few months' investigation and collection of evidence, the LD, with advice sought from the Department of Justice (DoJ), decided to institute prosecution against ATV and the director liable for the wage offences.

     Owing to the appointment of provisional liquidators in the winding-up proceedings against ATV on February 24, 2016, no action or proceedings shall be proceeded with or commenced against the company except by leave of the court according to Section 186 of the Companies (Winding Up and Miscellaneous Provisions) Ordinance. The LD sought the assistance of the DoJ and applied for leave from the High Court on May 11 to commence criminal proceedings against ATV for contravening the Employment Ordinance (EO). In the hearing on May 20, the High Court granted leave to the LD to take out prosecution against ATV. Subsequently, the LD laid a total 101 summonses on May 23 against ATV and one of its directors for late payment or non-payment of wages to its employees for the period between November 2015 and February 2016. Those 101 summonses comprise 57 summonses against ATV for wilfully and without reasonable excuse failing to pay wages in accordance with EO, and 44 summonses against one of ATV's directors. The LD's allegation against that director is that ATV's defaults in wage payment were committed with his consent, connivance or neglect. Plea-taking has been scheduled for June 28 at Shatin Magistrates' Courts.

     The LD will continue to enforce the laws strictly. Prosecution will be instituted to safeguard the statutory rights and benefits of employees if there are sufficient evidence and witnesses.
     Under the EO, an employer should pay wages within seven days from the last day of the wage period or upon termination of employment. Any employer failing to do so is liable to prosecution. If the wage offence is committed with the consent, connivance or neglect of the directors, managers or other similar officers of corporate bodies, these responsible persons will be liable for the like offences. The penalty will be a maximum fine of $350,000 and imprisonment for three years upon conviction.

     Apart from prosecution actions, the LD will continue to process the applications of ATV's ex-employees for ex gratia payment from the Protection of Wages on Insolvency Fund. The LD has up to now received around 550 relevant applications and has, since April 7, effected ex gratia payment amounting to a total of around $12.65 million to 257 applicants in five batches.

Ends/Monday, June 6, 2016
Issued at HKT 17:21


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