on 24 April 1997
LegCo Panel on Security
Security and Guarding Services (Amendment) (No.2) Bill 1997
This paper sets out the Administration's views on the Security and Guarding Services (Amendment) (No.2) Bill 1997 ( " the Bill " ) proposed by the Hon CHAN Wing-chan to exempt " existing security workers' from the permit requirement under the Security and Guarding Services Ordinance ( " the Ordinance " ).
2.The Ordinance aims to promote higher standards in the security industry, thereby helping the fight against crime. It came into full effect on 1 June 1996 and replaced the Watchmen Ordinance, the only legislation governing the industry then. Under the Ordinance, an independent Security and Guarding Services Industry Authority ( " the Authority " ) was established on 1 June 1995 to issue licences to security companies, and determine the criteria for issuing permits to security personnel. The criteria for issuing permits were approved by the Legislative Council in July 1995. Applicants must be fit and proper persons. Moreover, adequate training has to be provided by companies for security personnel to ensure that they could perform their duties competently.
3.The Bill seeks to exempt " existing security workers' (which refer to watchman's permit holders employed on or within 24 months before 31 May 1996) from the permit requirement under the Ordinance. According to the Legislative Council Brief prepared by the Hon CHAN Wing-chan, the proposed exemption is intended to protect the employment opportunities of " existing security personnel " , especially those over 65, as there have been cases where security personnel over the age of 65 were dismissed on the alleged ground of compliance with the age requirement under the Ordinance.
4.The Administration strongly opposes the Bill for reasons set out below -
- Nullification of Efforts to Improve Standards
The Bill would nullify the efforts to improve the standard of the security industry which helps the fight against crime. Under the Bill, " existing security workers' would be exempted from the permit criteria and conditions, which are intended to raise the standard of security personnel and cover, among other things, fitness, proficiency, working hours and behaviour at work.
- Confusion and Enforcement Problems
The Bill would also create serious confusion and enforcement problems by creating a dual standard for security personnel. Watchman's permit holders employed before 1 June 1996 would be put completely beyond the regulatory framework, whilst those employed after are subject to control of the existing law.
- No Answer to the Alleged Unfair Dismissal Problem
The Bill does not solve the alleged problem of unfair dismissal of aged security personnel, as unscrupulous employers who want to dismiss elderly security personnel can use other excuses.
Employment of Security Guards over the Age of 65
5.The Administration is mindful of the need of ensure that the employment of aged security personnel would not be unduly affected. There are already provisions built into the Ordinance to facilitate the continuous employment of security personnel over the age of 65. In line with the criteria approved by the Legislative Council in July 1995 for issuing security personnel permit, those over 65 can apply for a Category A permit and work in single private residential buildings i.e. buildings with one main access point and used substantially for residential purpose. This covers a large proportion of residential buildings in Hong Kong. There is no upper age limit for security personnel working in this type of buildings.
6.Section 33 of the Ordinance further provides a transitional arrangement to buffer any immediate impact on the employment opportunities of aged security personnel. Irrespective of age, watchman's permit holders can continue their service in all types of buildings until they receive notice from the Authority to change their watchman's permits into security personnel permits. This replacement exercise, which starts from young to old, will take about 5 years to complete (Annex A).
7.We have publicised the Ordinance, in particular the transitional arrangement, through television and radio broadcasting. The Authority has also emphasised this arrangement in the media and at its meetings with trade associations as well as trade unions. In conducting its public hearing on applications for licences, the Authority again reminds the companies of the above. The Commissioner for Labour had also issued a letter drawing the attention of employers to this arrangement.
Assistance Provided by the Labour Department
8.Since the Ordinance came into effect on 1 June 1996, the Labour Relations Service (LRS) of the Labour Department has received claims from 38 watchmen/security guards arising from dismissal by their employers as at 31 March 1997. The Labour Department's role is to ensure that the claimants are given termination benefits in accordance with the Employment Ordinance. Where there is a dispute between the claimant and his employer, the Labour Department provides a conciliation service to help both parties to come to a settlement. Of the 38 claims cases, 30 have been settled by the LRS and 6 by the Labour Tribunal while 2 are pending. All cases involving dismissal on the ground of age have been settled. A summary of these claims is at the Annex B.
9.The Labour Department also provides employment assistance to claimants through its Local Employment Service (LES), where a special counter has been designated to give priority service to displaced elderly workers. The LES will continue to assist the displaced security personnel to find suitable jobs. Any dismissed security personnel who would like to acquire new skills to enhance his employment opportunities may enrol in the training courses tailor-made for workers aged over 50 by the Employees Retraining Board.
10.For the reasons set out above, it is clearly not in the public interest to enact the Bill. We believe the appropriate way to tackle the problem of unfair dismissal is to contact the Labour Department for assistance. Meanwhile, we will continue with our publicity efforts to enhance public understanding of the requirements under the Ordinance.
18 April 1997
Last Updated on 21 August 1998