LegCo Paper No. CB(1)357/96-97
(These minutes have been seen by
the Administration) Ref : CB1/PL/MP/1

LegCo Panel on Manpower

Minutes of meeting held on Monday, 28 October 1996 at 2:30 p.m. in the Chamber of the Legislative Council Building Members present :
    Hon LAU Chin-shek (Chairman)
    Hon CHAN Yuen-han (Deputy Chairman)
    Hon NGAI Shiu-kit, OBE, JP
    Hon SZETO Wah
    Hon Ronald ARCULLI, OBE, JP
    Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong
    Hon Frederick FUNG Kin-kee
    Hon James TIEN Pei-chun, OBE, JP
    Hon LEE Cheuk-yan
    Hon CHAN Wing-chan
    Hon CHENG Yiu-tong
    Hon LAW Chi-kwong
    Hon LEE Kai-ming
    Hon LEUNG Yiu-chung
    Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee
    Hon MOK Ying-fan
    Hon TSANG Kin-shing
Members absent :
    Dr Hon LEONG Che-hung, OBE, JP
    Hon Michael HO Mun-ka
    Hon Henry TANG Ying-yen, JP
Member attending : Item IV

    Hon Mrs Miriam LAU Kin-yee, OBE, JP
Public officers attendin :
Item IV and V

    Miss Esther LEUNG
    Acting Principal Assistant Secretary
    for Education and Manpower
    Mr Alfred CHAN, JP
    Deputy Commissioner for Labour

Item IV

    Mr Philip CHAN
    Assistant Secretary for Security
    Miss Anita TSANG
    Chief Executive Officer
    (Security and Guarding Services)
Item V
    Mr Matthew K C CHEUNG, JP
    Deputy Secretary for
    Education and Manpower
    Mr Ambrose S K Lee
    Assistant Director of Immigration
    Mr T K LAI
    Principal Immigration Officer
    Mr Donald TONG
    Assistant Director, NAPCO
    (Community Relations)
    Mr W L WAN
    Acting Assistant Director (Technical)
    Mr Leslie W K TANG
    Acting Assistant Commissioner for
    Census & Statistics
    Mr Francis YIU
    Senior Statistician Census &
    Statistics Department
Clerk in attendance :
    Miss Polly YEUNG
    Chief Assistant Secretary(1)3
Staff in attendance :
    Ms Connie SZE-TO
    Senior Assistant Secretary(1)5

I.Confirmation of minutes of meeting and matters arising

(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)43/96-97 and CB(1)170/96-97)

1. The minutes of the Panel meetings held on 2 October and 8 October 1996 were confirmed.

II. Date and items for discussion for next meeting

2. Members agreed to discuss the following items at the next Panel meeting scheduled for Monday, 25 November 1996 at 2:30 p.m.:

  1. Consultancy study on the Employees Retraining Scheme (ERS) and the consultancy report on the strategic and organisational review of the Vocational Training Council;
  2. Issues related to the Trade Boards Ordinance
  3. It was also agreed that members of the Education Panel would be invited to join the discussion of item(a).

(Post-meeting note: Since the Administration had advised that the consultancy report on the ERS would not be available in November 1996, the Chairman had directed that discussion of this item would be deferred.)

3. Hon LEE Cheuk-yan informed the meeting that he had obtained certificates from the Law Draftsman for his two proposed Member’s Bills to amend the Employees’ Compensation Ordinance and he would like to brief the Panel on the bills in due course.

III. Information papers issued since last meeting

4. The Panel noted that no information paper on general subjects had been issued since the last meeting.

IV. Job opportunities of security personnel following the implementation of the Security and Guarding Services Ordinance

(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)178/96-97(01) and CB(1)188/96-97(01))

5. Hon Mrs Miriam LAU declared an interest that she was the Chairman of the Security and Guarding Services Industry Authority (the Authority).

6. At the Chairman’s invitation, Hon CHAN Wing-chan briefed members on salient points of his position paper as follows:

  1. Since the full implementation of the Security and Guarding Services Ordinance (SGSO) on 1 June 1996, there were a number of complaints from elderly watchmen aged 65 or above that they had been dismissed by their employers. He was concerned about the services and assistance offered by the Labour Department (LD) to help the dismissed or displaced workers.
  2. Although section 33 of the SGSO provided a transitional arrangement, which was estimated to last for five years, to enable elderly watchmen who were over the age of 65 and holding watchman’s permits (WPs) to continue their service in all types of buildings until they were notified by the Authority to change their WPs into security personnel permits (SPPs) issued under the SGSO, elderly watchmen over the age of 65 were deeply worried about reduced job opportunities as in future, they could only apply for Category A permits to work in single private residential buildings.

7. Mr CHAN further remarked that the upper age limit of 65 for Category B permits, which enabled holders to take up guarding work for all types of premises and properties, would undermine the employment opportunities of elderly watchmen as the proportion of single private residential buildings in Hong Kong was relatively small. In this connection, Mr CHAN indicated his intention to introduce a Member’s Bill to remove the age restriction for Category B permits under the SGSO. Some members expressed support for his proposal.

8. Hon James TIEN pointed out that employers likewise were not in favour of the various restrictions imposed by the new SGSO as there was difficulty in recruiting qualified security and guarding personnel following the enactment of the Ordinance. He further queried the criteria adopted in screening applications for SPPs and the effectiveness of the new licensing system in promoting the standard of the security industry since the Administration had informed that only 33 out of a total of some 50,000 applications for SPPs had been rejected.

9. In response to members’ views, Mr Philip CHAN made the following points:

  1. The Administration was mindful of the need to ensure that the employment of elderly watchmen/security guards would not be unduly affected as a result of the new requirements. In fact, the transitional arrangement under the SGSO providing for the phased replacement of WPs would buffer any immediate impact on the employment opportunities of elderly watchmen.
  2. As regards the future job opportunities of watchmen over the age of 65, those issued with Category A permits could still work in single private residential buildings which in fact accounted for a considerable proportion of residential buildings in Hong Kong as they included large residential estates such as Mei Foo Sun Chuen, Whampoa Garden and Laguna City. There was no upper age limit for watchmen working in this type of buildings and they would only need to undergo a biennial examination to prove that they were physically fit for the job after reaching the age of 70.
  3. The objective of the SGSO was to enhance the service standards of the security industry in a bid to prevent crime. There were stringent criteria for issuing permits to security personnel. Besides the age requirement, the applicants’ employment history and criminal records, if any, would also be considered. So far, over 30,000 permits under the SGSO had been issued out of a total of some 50,000 applications. As at October 1996, 33 applications had been rejected and 23 appeals were being processed. A sub-committee had been established under the Authority to advise on training matters with a view to enhancing the standard of security personnel through systematic training.
  4. The Administration considered that as the SGSO had been fulfilling its objective since its full implementation in June 1996, Mr CHAN’s proposed Member’s Bill might cause confusion and undermine the Administration’s efforts to enhance the service standard of the security industry in its fight against crime. Hence, the Administration would not support the bill.

10. Upon the Chairman’s invitation, Mrs Miriam LAU reiterated that all applications for SPPs were subject to stringent vetting by the Police to ensure that only those fitted to perform the job would be issued with permits. It was also believed that the transitional arrangement would cushion any immediate impact on the employment of elderly watchmen.

11. In explaining the assistance and services offered by the LD to help dismissed/displaced elderly watchmen, Mr Alfred CHAN advised as follows:

  1. The LD had issued a letter to over 200 security and property management companies in early June 1996 drawing their attention to the transitional arrangement. Since the full implementation of the SGSO on 1 June 1996 and up to 30 September 1996, the LD had received claims from 27 elderly watchmen arising from dismissal by their employers. The number was very small when compared against the total number of claims received by the Labour Relations Service (LRS) whose role was to ensure that the claimants were given termination benefits in accordance with the Employment Ordinance (EO). Of the 27 claims, 19 had been settled, four referred to the Labour Tribunal for adjudication and the remaining four were in the course of conciliation.
  2. According to provisions in the EO, an employee dismissed by his employer through no fault of his own was entitled to claim severance payment or long service payment (LSP) if he had two years’ or five years’ service respectively. An elderly worker over 65 years of age and with five years’ of service with the employer would be entitled to LSP even if he resigned.

Employment assistance was provided by the LD’s Local Employment Service (LES) to most of the 27 claimants where three had already found employment, and seven had registered with the LES for seeking jobs. The LD would follow up on the remaining cases to provide necessary assistance.

12. Upon the Chairman’s request, Mr CHAN undertook to provide information on the employment situtation of the three claimants who had found new jobs to see whether they were re-employed in the security and guarding industry.

13. Responding to Hon LEE Cheuk-yan’s enquiry on whether dismissal of elderly watchmen who did not fulfil the requirements under the SGSO would constitute a rightful summary dismissal by the employer under section 9(b) of the EO, Mr CHAN said that the issue would require detailed study and the Administration would revert to members in writing after seeking legal advice.EMB/

V. Report of the Panel’s enquiry on labour disputes relating to the Special Labour Importation Scheme for the Airport Core Programme Projects

(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)194/96-97(01))

14. At the Chairman’s invitation, Mr Matthew CHEUNG briefed members on the Administration’s views on the major findings and recommendations of the Panel’s enquiry on labour disputes relating to the Special Labour Importation Scheme (SLIS) for the Airport Core Programme (ACP) Projects. The majority of members present expressed dissatisfaction at the Administration’s written responses and pointed out that a lot of the major recommendations had neither been accepted nor considered by the Administration.

15. In response to members’ comments, Mr CHEUNG confirmed the Administration’s appreciation of the Panel’s efforts in conducting the enquiry and preparing a detailed report with useful findings and recommendations. He reiterated that a number of the recommendations had been accepted and were in operation even before the completion of the enquiry. In the ensuing discussion, the meeting deliberated on the following key issues.

Necessity for the SLIS

16. Hon LEUNG Yiu-chung disagreed with the Administration’s comments in paragraphs 3 and 4 of the information paper which seemed to suggest that the Panel was in support of the SLIS and had found that the Scheme was operating smoothly. Instead, he referred to paragraph 5.4 of the report which stated that the Panel was aware that there were reasons for the implementation of the SLIS but observed that the Administration had not devoted much efforts to making the Scheme work. In the course of the enquiry, the Panel had also detected a lot of irregularities and called on the Administration to undertake immediate rectification.

17. Responding to Mr LEUNG’s comments, Mr CHEUNG clarified that the Administration was given the impression in the Panel’s report that the Panel appreciated the importance of the SLIS in facilitating the timely completion of the ACP Projects, and suggested measures to rectify the deficiencies. He added that afterall, this appeared to be the thrust of the report and there was no intention to imply that the Panel was in support of the Scheme. As regards implementation, the Administration considered that in general, the SLIS was operating smoothly and prompt and proactive measures had in fact been taken to tackle the problems following the outbreak of the spate of labour disputes in late 1995.

Awareness of imported workers of their rights and benefits

18.Some members deplored the Administration’s heavy reliance on imported workers to report malpractices instead of taking the initiative to detect irregularities and take remedial action. They doubted whether the imported workers were sufficiently aware of their entitlements.

  1. Besides the provision of telephone enquiry service and compulsory briefings for imported workers after their arrival, employers were required to provide workers with details of their employment including copies of the employment contracts.
  2. To detect possible abuses, the LD had stepped up visits, including surprise inspections, to the workplace and places of accommodation of imported workers. Information pamphlets were also distributed to workers on top of checking employment and wage records kept by contractors at site. Some 1,890 visits had been made so far in 1996. Prosecution against contractors had been taken out resulting in 51 convictions with an average fine of $15,490 in the first nine months of 1996. There were only nine convictions with an average fine of $3,000 in 1995.
  3. Offices were also set up at the new airport site for the LD and trade unions to receive complaints from workers which would be followed up by the Administration.

19.Reply to the Deputy Chairman’s enquiry, Mr Ambrose LEE confirmed that the Immigration Department (ImmD) had , since February 1996, included information on the job type and the actual wage amount in the notification letter issued to imported workers and to require the worker to produce his original copy of employment contract for inspection when applying for his Hong Kong Identity Card.

Activities of "middlemen"

19. Members expressed strong dissatisfaction at the lack of positive response from the Administration to address the problems associated with the activities of "middlemen" in the recruitment and management of imported workers as revealed in the enquiry. They pointed out that the "middlemen" in fact exercised very strong control on imported workers and reference was made to recent incidents where imported workers had withdrawn their complaints against their employers, possibly due to the advice or pressure by the "middlemen" concerned.

20. Members were disappointed that the recommendation to suitably amend the definition of "employment agency" under the EO to regulate the activities of "middlemen" had not been accepted by the Administration. They remained deeply concerned about the absence of sanction or control over labour service companies (LSCs) or their agents who had played a significant part in the importation of workers from the PRC.

21. Addressing members’ concerns, Mr CHEUNG and Mr CHAN made the following points:

  1. The Panel’s recommendation to extend the scope of "employment agency" under the EO might inadvertently change the status of those employees assisting their employers to recruit staff into "employment agencies", and this would have serious implications on the employment sector.
  2. Under the current policy on importation of foreign labour, employers were not required to recruit labour from any designated country, or through registered employment agencies in Hong Kong. For instance, at present, employers were at liberty to recruit their foreign domestic helpers through employment agencies in Hong Kong or other channels. Imposing conditions on the means or channels of recruitment would have widespread repercussions and hence, reduce the flexibility available to employers.
  3. There were relevant laws in various labour exporting countries governing the operation of employment agencies recruiting workers to work overseas and employers importing labour from these countries had to comply with these laws. The Administration would keep up its efforts to maintain closer working relationship with the relevant authorities of these countries.
  4. For PRC workers, the Chinese Government had strengthened control over the LSCs by reducing the number of authorised LSCs from over 50 to only 21 and restricting its approval of overseas employment to only those workers who were recruited through the authorised LSCs. The Chinese Government would also encourage the authorised LSCs to register as employment agencies under the EO in Hong Kong before the end of 1996. So far, three LSCs had registered and applications from three companies were being processed. The Chinese authorities had also planned to promulgate a standard scale of services fees to be charged by LSCs and to organise systematic training for workers prior to their departure.
  5. Although some claims filed by imported workers were subsequently withdrawn, the LD was seeking to contact the complainants to follow-up on the cases. As requested by some members, the Administraion would provide detailed information on these withdrawn cases received by the LRS in the past six months for members’ reference.LD

22. Members contended that the aforesaid measures were inadequate in regulating the activities of LSCs and "middlemen". Hon LEE Cheuk-yan suggested that as an alternative, the Administration could consider imposing a condition on ACP contractors requiring them to recruit workers through the LSCs which had registered as employment agencies in Hong Kong. This would be an administrative measure without any need for legislative amendment.

23. On the operation of LSCs in Hong Kong, members requested the Administration to provide a list of these companies whose service had been/was being engaged by ACP contractors, as well as the list of 21 LSCs authorised by the Chinese Government.EMB/

Employment of local workers in the ACP projects

24. Members cast doubt on the Administration’s pledge to give priority to local workers for ACP jobs and queried the effectiveness of the ACP Job Centre in helping local workers to find jobs in the ACP projects. They requested detailed information on the job vacancies registered at the Job Centre, job referrals made and reasons for unsuccessful placements, as well as details of workers imported for the ACP projects since the establishment of the Job Centre in January 1996.


(Post-meeting note: A letter setting out the detailed request for the necessary information was issued to the Administration on 29 October 1996)

25. Addressing members’ concern, Mr CHEUNG reiterated the cardinal principles that local workers through a mandatory local recruitment procedure under the SLIS must be given priority in filling ACP job vacancies, and contractors would only be allowed to import workers when they could prove to the satisfaction of the Administration that they were genuinely unable to fill certain vacancies with local workers.

26. On the performance of the ACP Job Centre, Mr Donald TONG gave the following information:

  1. As at 30 September 1996, about 24,000 local workers were employed in the ACP projects which accounted for some 82% of the total workforce.
  2. As at 26 October 1996, a total of 2,758 job vacancies were registered with the ACP Job Centre. Most of these vacancies were registered in order to comply with the requirement for the importation of labour under which prority for employment should be accorded to local workers. As at the same date, the ACP Job Centre had secured jobs for 582 job-seekers among which 116 job offers had been declined.

Quota ceiling and vetting mechanism in processing quota applications

27. Hon LEUNG Yiu-chung was disappointed that the Administration was reluctant to accept the Panel’s recommendation to conduct periodic reviews on the quota ceiling of imported workers and to make adjustment according to changes in the local labour market.

28. In response, Mr CHEUNG stressed that the quota ceiling served only to control the maximum number of approved quota at any time and was not a target number of imported workers over the entire period. The actual control of the quotas allocated to individual contractors was through vetting each individual application.

29. Elaborating on the processing of quota applications, Miss Esther LEUNG and Mr CHAN made the following points:

  1. Under the existing mechanism of the SLIS, the inter-departmental Liaison Group (LG) comprising the ImmD, NAPCO, LD and the Census & Statistics Department advised the Secretary for Education and Manpower - the approval authority of whether any individual quota applications should or should not be accepted.
  2. Each member of the LG had its distinct role to play in the vetting process. It would not be advisable for any one member of the LG, such as the LD, to become the approving authority in place of the SEM as the latter, not being involved in the vetting process, was in the best position to take an objective view of each individual application.

The proposal to involve third parties in the formulation of policies and monitoring of implementation of the SLIS

30. Members were also disappointed that the proposal for an independent advisory committee on the SLIS was not accepted by the Administration.

31. In response, Mr CHEUNG reiterated that the Administration fully appreciated members’ good intentions underlying the proposal but considered that the proposed independent committee was unnecessary as the existing system was operating in a smooth and transparent manner, providing adequate channels for all parties concerned to convey their views to the Government. Moreover, the Administration would consult widely on any major changes to the Scheme.

Follow-up action

32. Some members still expressed reservation on the Administration’s responses and the Deputy Chairman remarked that there was insufficient time for members to study the Administration’s paper as it was only received two days before the meeting. Summing up the discussion, the Chairman directed that issues related to the SLIS could be brought up for discussion at future Panel meetings.

33. As there was insufficient time left to deal with the remaining two agenda items, members agreed to hold a special Panel meeting on Friday, 1 November 1996 at 11:00 a.m. to discuss the items.

(Post-meeting note: Notice and agenda of the special meeting was issued vide LegCo Paper No. CB(1)212/96-97 on 29 October 1996)

34. The meeting ended at 4:50 p.m.

Legislative Council Secretariat
19 November 1996

Last Updated on 21 August 1998