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LCQ2: Protection of labour rights and interests of ethnic minorities
     Following is a question by the Hon Kwok Wai-keung and a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Stephen Sui, in the Legislative Council today (February 15):
     Recently, some members of the ethnic minorities (EMs) have relayed to me that some employers, taking advantage of their weakness of being unfamiliar with labour rights and interests, have hired them on employment terms which are inferior to the statutory requirements. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) in the past five years, (i) of the respective numbers of enquiries and complaints received by the authorities from EMs about their employers' alleged failure to offer them the labour rights and interests as prescribed by the law, (ii) how the authorities had dealt with such cases, and (iii) the number of cases in which employers who had allegedly breached the law were prosecuted;
(2) of the measures taken by the authorities in the past five years to safeguard EMs of their labour rights and interests; and
(3) whether the authorities will consider stepping up the following measures so as to protect the labour rights and interests of EMs: (i) inspecting those work places with relatively more EMs employees in order to check if the terms of employment of such employees comply with the statutory requirements, (ii) promoting the knowledge of labour rights and interests as well as of occupational safety among EMs, and (iii) providing more convenient channels for EMs to report law-breaking employers, as well as widely publicising such channels among EMs?
     My reply to the question raised by Hon Kwok Wai-keung is as follows:
(1) Members of the public, irrespective of their ethnicity, have access to the free enquiry services provided by the Labour Department (LD) in respect of legislation on employees' rights and benefits as well as occupational safety and health (OSH) and may lodge complaints against suspected offences. LD will promptly follow up and conduct investigation upon receipt of a complaint. If there is sufficient evidence, LD will initiate prosecution against those law-defying employers. LD does not keep a breakdown of enquiries/ complaints/ prosecution cases by the ethnicity of the enquirers/ complainants.
(2) LD has all along been adopting multi-pronged measures to protect the statutory rights and benefits of employees under labour laws. Through proactive workplace inspections, LD endeavours to safeguard employees' entitlements and minimise hazards at workplaces. Investigation of suspected offences will be conducted and employers who violate the law will be prosecuted. LD also provides consultation service in relation to the Employment Ordinance, the Minimum Wage Ordinance and employment contracts, and renders voluntary conciliation service to assist employers and employees in establishments outside the government sector to resolve their employment claims and disputes. Criminal investigation will be conducted for breaches of labour legislation detected in the course of conciliation.
     To ensure that statutory rights and benefits of ethnic minorities (EMs) will not be jeopardised by language barriers, LD will arrange translation and interpretation services for EMs who speak neither Chinese nor English when rendering consultation and conciliation services, or during complaint investigations and law enforcement actions.
(3) Labour Inspectors (LIs) of LD initiate surprise inspections to workplaces in various sectors to monitor employers' compliance with labour laws, in order to safeguard the rights and benefits of employees including EMs. Subject to operational exigencies, LIs interview EM workers during inspections to enquire about their employment terms and conditions, and explain to them the protection and rights which they are entitled to under the labour laws.
     LD also produces a large number of publications in major EM languages to publicise major provisions of labour legislation, employees' statutory rights and protection and the channels for reporting on law-defiant employers. In addition to dissemination through various channels, the e-versions of these publications have been uploaded to the Multi-Language Platform of the Gov.HK website and LD's homepage to facilitate EMs to browse the information. Other promotional efforts include publicising on radio programmes for EMs, and advertising on public transport and in newspapers for EMs, etc.
     In respect of publicity and promotion on OSH, LD produces simple and reader-friendly promotional leaflets and materials for EMs, organises regional roving exhibitions and site visits/ talks in collaboration with workers' unions/ organisations/ trade associations, and promulgates work safety messages in local weekly EM newspapers to enhance their safety awareness. A list of leaflets / pamphlets on labour legislation and related services published by LD in EM languages is at Annex.
     Moreover, LD widely publicises its 24-hour Enquiry Hotline: 2717 1771 through its homepage, the Gov.HK website, various leaflets on labour laws and during promotional activities. The hotline, operated by 1823, answers enquiries on labour legislation and makes referral on complaints received. When EMs call the hotline, the Centre for Harmony and Enhancement of Ethnic Minority Residents (CHEER), funded by the Home Affairs Department, provides prompt telephone interpretation service and conducts three-way conference call to help the callers obtain the necessary information.
Ends/Wednesday, February 15, 2017
Issued at HKT 14:28
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