LC Paper No. CB(2) 1520/98-99
(The minutes have been seen
by the Administration)
Ref : CB2/PL/MP/1
LegCo Panel on Manpower
Minutes of special meeting
held on Thursday, 7 January 1999 at 4:45 pm
in Conference Room A of the Legislative Council Building
Hon LEE Kai-ming, JP (Chairman)
Hon LAU Chin-shek, JP (Deputy Chairman)
Hon Kenneth TING Woo-shou, JP
Hon David CHU Yu-lin
Hon HO Sai-chu, JP
Hon LEE Cheuk-yan
Hon Ronald ARCULLI, JP
Hon CHAN Kwok-keung
Hon CHAN Yuen-han
Hon CHAN Wing-chan
Hon LEUNG Yiu-chung
Hon Andrew CHENG Kar-foo
Hon SZETO Wah
Hon Cyd HO Sau-lan
Hon NG Leung-sing
Public Officers attending :
Hon James TIEN Pei-chun, JP
Hon Michael HO Mun-ka
Dr Hon LUI Ming-wah, JP
Hon CHAN Kam-lam
Dr Hon LEONG Che-hung, JP
Hon SIN Chung-kai
Clerk in attendance:
- Item I
- Mr Philip K F CHOK
- Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower
- Ms Esther LEUNG
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower
- Miss Erica NG
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower
- Mr KWONG Sing-szee
- Executive Director
Employees Retraining Board
- Mr WONG Kam-kwok
- Senior Deputy Executive Director
Employees Retraining Board
- Mr M C LEUNG
- Senior Labour Officer
- Item II
- Mr Herman CHO
- Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower
- Mr K F LEE
- Deputy Commissioner for Labour
- Mr William SIU
- Assistant Commissioner for Labour
- Mr Dominic MAK
- Assistant Commissioner for Labour
Staff in attendance:
- Mrs Sharon TONG
- Chief Assistant Secretary (2)1
- Ms Lolita NG
- Senior Assistant Secretary (2) 5
|Before the meeting proceeded, Miss CHAN Yuen-han suggested that having regard to the recent press reports on relaxation of entry quota for Mainland professionals, an information paper be provided by the Administration for discussion on the matter at the Panel meeting on 28 January 1999. Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower (DSEM) would advise whether the subject was ready for discussion.||Adm|
(Post-meeting note : The Administration advised that the matter was still under review and a proposal had yet to be formulated.)
I. Employees Retraining Board : the way forward
(LC Paper No. CB(2) 919/98-99(05))
2.The Employees Retraining Board (ERB) tabled its strategic plan, mission statement and publicity materials at the meeting.
3. Mr LEE Cheuk-yan suggested the Employees Retraining Board (ERB) to focus on quality of its courses with a view to raising skill levels of retrainees. He asked for a strategic plan to help retrainees to secure employment.
4. DSEM responded that ERB had developed a new strategic plan to improve the quality and cost-effectiveness of retraining. Its long-term objectives were to establish a continuous and preventive training system so as to minimize unemployment in Hong Kong. He elaborated on the strategic plan as follows -
- Enhance the quantity and quality of courses and services
ERB would develop a more elaborate evaluation system and performance indicators for training bodies; standardize similar courses, upgrade their quality and seek employers' recognition;
- Upkeep market intelligence
ERB would conduct more systematic and regular researches into the manpower needs of the labour market for dissemination to the training bodies to facilitate the evaluation and improvement of the various training courses and related services; and
- Strengthen partnership with employers and stakeholders
ERB would enhance communication and develop strategic partnership with employer/trade associations, employee groups, training bodies (TB) and concerned government departments through setting up steering/advisory committees on categories of core courses - soft skills, information technology, language, property management, domestic helpers etc.
5. The Chairman was concerned about the long-term development of ERB. DSEM said that in the longer term, the Administration planned to develop a qualifications framework (QF) for programmes provided by ERB and the Vocational Training Council (VTC) in order to provide a well-structured education and training ladder for both the employed and unemployed. Given improvement in and more recognition for their vocational qualifications, they might have better chances to secure employment. Referring to the strategic plan and mission statement, the Executive Director of ERB (ED/ERB) added that ERB had implemented a series of measures to ease unemployment in Hong Kong. There were short-term measures, such as job placements, to help the unemployed to rejoin the labour force. In the longer term, courses would be conducted to raise the skill levels of the unemployed so that their vocational qualifications would be recognized and their employability would be sustained. Furthermore, courses would be standardized and quality of the courses would be improved.
6. Miss CHAN Yuen-han urged the Administration to help the unemployed to stay competitive in the labour market with an aim to secure employment. In this connection, she suggested that continuous education be provided to the unemployed as many of them were of lower educational level.
7. The responses of DSEM were as follows -
- Arising from the results of a review of the Employees Retraining Scheme (ERS), ERB was primarily focusing on providing retraining for the unemployed who were aged 30 or over with no more than secondary 3 level so that they could secure employment and hold down their jobs in the market;
- As a new venture, ERB organized jointly with VTC a special nine-month full-time Certificate of Skills Training (Service Industries) Course for 1 000 unemployed persons in September 1998. ERB would review the effectiveness of the course to see whether more such courses should be devised ; and
- ERB had focused on developing tailor-made retraining courses for individual employers and tailor-made on-the-job retraining courses for retrainees as outlined in paras. 9(c) and (d) of the paper.
8. Miss CHAN Yuen-han was of the view that a long-term, holistic approach be adopted to develop manpower retraining especially for the unemployed with low educational attainment. In response, DSEM said that the views would be considered by ERB. He reiterated that to strengthen partnership with employers/trade associations, employee groups, training bodies (TB) and concerned government departments, ERB would set up steering/advisory committees on categories of core courses in the areas of soft skills, information technology, language, property management, domestic helpers etc. ED/ERB said that the proposed QF might address the concern of Miss CHAN Yuen-han. There would be five units of structured skill training and a flexible approach would be adopted. Trainees could attend and complete courses on a module basis to suit their convenience. In this way, a training ladder could be provided.
9. Referring to the special nine-month full-time Certificate of Skills Training (Service Industries) Course, Miss Cyd HO said that as many of the unemployed persons were of low educational standard, they might have difficulties to sustain employability even though they could secure employment. With this regard, she proposed that adult education be reviewed in the context of manpower retraining.
10. ED/ERB agreed that unemployed persons who had poor educational foundation would require adult education and that their skill levels needed to be strengthened. The aforesaid proposal related to local education on the macro level and required collaboration among government departments and organisations. Responding to a further question from Miss Cyd HO on adult education, ED/ERB said that ERB focused on skill training which varied from the educational programmes provided by the Education Department. He further said that the special nine-month full-time Certificate of Skills Training (Service Industries) Course would be evaluated.
11. Miss Cyd HO maintained that adult education should be taken into account in the context of manpower retraining. She suggested ERB to promote self-learning among retrainees. ED/ERB said that ERB could contribute to increasing the self-confidence of retrainees with lower educational attainment and motivating their interests to learn.
12. As regards continuous education, Mr CHAN Wing-chan proposed that to improve their foundations for further training, assistance be provided to trainees/retrainees of lower educational level for them to climb the training ladder over a period of several years. The Chairman enquired about the relationship and division of labour between in-service training, such as the courses conducted by VTC, and retraining, such as ERB courses.
13. The responses of DSEM were as follows -
- ERB courses could be considered a continuum of the courses run by VTC;
- The employed and the unemployed, though with lower educational attainment, might attend VTC courses after completion of ERB courses. In this way, their vocational qualifications could be improved; and
- There were similar QFs in countries such as Singapore and Australia where courses were conducted on a continuum.
14. Mr Andrew CHENG enquired about the details of the proposed QF. He asked whether resources would be required for the project and the review of ERB's administrative and financial management in addition to the recent grant of $500 million. He was concerned about the date of completion of the review. In response, DSEM reiterated the operation of QF as outlined in para. 12 of the paper. He said that the initial proposal would be made available by the end of 1999. The cost of implementation in respect of the QF project and the review was already included in the aforementioned grant.
15. DSEM added that for the review, ERB had undertaken two consultancy studies on ways and means of streamlining and strengthening its overall financial management and course administration system. The studies would address how best to revamp ERB's funding arrangement with its TBs and course administration mechanism with a view to strengthening the overall quality control system and ensuring the provision of value-for-money training in the longer term. The review would be completed in 1999 and the recommendations would be implemented as soon as possible. Responding to a further question from Mr Andrew CHENG, DSEM said that subject to the result of the review, some additional financial resources might be required for implementation of the recommendations.
16. Mr Chan Wing-chan enquired about the reasons for the long waiting time of some ERB courses, computer training in particular. He also questioned the rationale for reducing the training quota of the course on job search skills in 1998-99. DSEM responded that to cope with the increasing demand for retraining, ERB's total training capacity had been increased by 6 000 in 1998-99 while the number of TBs increased from 56 to 60. By re-allocation of resources, the number of part-time and evening courses might be increased. ED/ERB supplemented that by means of computerization, course administration could be enhanced. However, courses could not be expanded too quickly due to reasons such as trainers' qualifications, venue for the courses, etc.
17. As regards reduction of training quota, ED/ERB said that when the course on job search skills was commenced, the job market was good. However, in the present economic climate, resources were re-allocated to meet the needs of courses which had a greater demand. ED/ERB assured that elements of soft skills had been incorporated to all ERB courses in order to equip trainees/retrainees with the necessary job search skills, proper work attitude and service culture etc.
18. Mr Andrew CHENG asked whether the Administration would reduce the present financial assistance to retrainees of ERB courses. He also questioned as to how ERB monitored TBs' performance. DSEM said that the Administration did not plan to reduce the financial assistance to retrainees at this stage. Given the review of ERB's administrative and financial management, there might be some change in the situation. However, he could not anticipate the change at the present moment. In response to a further question from Mr Andrew CHENG, DSEM said that the review of ERB's administrative and financial was conducted to streamline and strengthen its overall financial management and course administration system. The review was not aimed to reduce the financial assistance to retainees.
19. As regards monitoring of TBs' performance, ED/ERB pointed out that ERB was on partnership with TBs. Steering committees on courses were set up to review the content and duration of the courses, trainers' qualifications etc. ERB also provided TBs' teachers with in-service training. For better financial management, ERB was trying to strengthen the financial system and auditing control over TBs. ERB encouraged TBs to undertake annual budgeting. Site audits would be conducted.
20. Mr HO Sai-chu, who was a member of ERB, opined that the Administration needed to address the financial need of ERB on a long-term basis. DSEM said that the Administration would study the matter in conjunction with ERB.
21. Mr HO Sai-chu suggested and ED/ERB agreed that retraining courses for the disabled would best be conducted by other professional bodies.
22. Referring to Annex B of the paper, Miss Cyd HO worried that the provision of the tailor-made on-the-job retraining courses would just benefit the employers because they were not required to pay the trainees for their work. DSEM advised that employers were subsidized for three months only and that they had to pay wages thereafter. He added that the relevant TBs undertook to provide 12 months' post-employment follow-up services to the trainees with a view to securing employment.
|23. Miss CHAN Yuen-han suggested and members agreed that the Panel would follow-up the review of ERB's administrative and financial management and that views of the TBs be gauged. DSEM agreed to report the result of the review to the Panel in due course.||Adm |
II. Briefing on the Factories and Industrial Undertakings (Amendment) Bill 1999 and Factories and Industrial Undertakings (Safety Management) Regulation
(LC Paper No. CB(2)982/98-99(01))
24. At the invitation of the Chairman, Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower (PAS/EM) briefed members of the Factories and Industrial Undertakings (FIU) (Amendment) Bill 1999 (the Bill) and FIU (Safety Management) Regulation (the Regulation) as outlined in the information paper.
Mandatory safety training
25. PAS/EM said that despite some improvements in recent years, the industrial accident rates for Hong Kong had remained unsatisfactorily high, particularly for the construction industry. In order to promote safety training for workers, the Administration proposed that the Factories and Industrial Undertakings Ordinance (FIUO) be amended to make safety training mandatory and to expand the power of the Commissioner for Labour (C for L) to make regulations. As a first step, the requirement should be applied to the construction and container handling industries. Subject to the provision of a grace period, all persons employed on construction sites and container handling depots, except those engaged in office administration and activities unconnected with the construction and container handling work activities, should be required to receive basic safety training. Safety training courses provided by the Construction Industry Training Authority and VTC for construction and container handling workers and the certificates issued to their graduates would be recognised by the Administration for the purpose of the new requirement.
26. PAS/EM further said that after the grace period, proprietor and contractor of construction work and container handling operations could only employ workers who were holders of a valid certificate. The workers concerned would also be required to carry the certificate with them while at work. The maximum penalties on the proprietors/contractors and workers for breaching the law were $50,000 and $10,000 fines respectively.
27. Pertaining to the certificate system, Mr LEUNG Yiu-chung observed that the course on safety training , lasting for one-day, would cover quite a number of areas. Given the tight schedule, he questioned if the course could meet its objective. Mr CHAN Kwok-keung worried that the certificate system would discourage workers to work in the construction sector. He asked whether the requirement for issue of the certificate would be tightened at a later stage. Deputy Commissioner for Labour (DC for L) responded that -
- the course aimed to raise workers' general awareness on occupational safety, promoting the concept of joint responsibility between the proprietor/contractor and workers. Past experience indicated that the passing rate of the course exceeded 90%. There was just a small number of workers who failed in the course. For those who had failed, they could sit for an examination again ;and
- the Administration intended to cultivate and instill the concept of occupational safety among workers so that they knew what safety precautions would be required in construction sites. The certificate system was not intended to discourage anyone from joining the profession.
28. In response to a further question from Mr LEUNG Yiu-chung, DC for L said that a course on safety training, including its assessment criteria, needed to be approved by C for L. The Administration had no intention to control the number of workers from joining the industry of this or any other means. Workers who wanted to join the trade could attend the safety training course as sponsored by the proprietors or contractors and obtain the relevant certificate. The workers could also apply for the training course with CITA on their own.
29. Miss CHAN Yuen-han asked for the rationale to provide proprietor/contractors with different penalties for breaching the law in areas of mandatory safety training and employment of illegal labour to work in construction sites. DC for L explained that because of different criminal liabilities, proprietors / contractors were provided with different penalties.
30. In response to Mr NG Leung-sing, DC for L advised that only work-related accidents were included in the statistics of death and casualty in construction sites.
A safety management system
31. PAS/EM said that after the Bill had been passed into law, the Regulation which introduced a safety management system in selected industrial undertakings, would be made by C for L under section 7 of FIUO, subject to LegCo's approval.
32. PAS/EM further said that the Administration proposed to introduce the Regulation to initially require proprietors or contractors in relation to construction sites, shipyards, factories and other designated industrial undertakings with 100 or more workers, as well as construction projects with contract value of $100 million or more, to adopt ten of the 14 process elements of the safety management system and to carry out safety audits of their safety management system. Construction sites and industrial undertakings employing 50 to 99 workers each would be required to adopt eight of the 14 process elements of the safety management system and carry out safety reviews. Industrial undertakings employing less than 50 workers would be exempted for the time being. The Administration would review the implementation of the proposed safety management system one year after the Regulation had come into force to decide on the appropriate time to bring the remaining four elements into operation, as well as extending the requirement to industrial undertakings employing less than 50 workers.
33. Mr LAU Chin-shek and Mr CHAN Wing-chan asked about the number of workers involved in construction sites and industrial undertakings which would be exempted from the Regulation. Mr LAU Chin-shek also queried the appropriateness of such demarcation. He was of the view that the lower end of the demarcation should be extended to construction sites and industrial undertakings employing less than 30 workers in order to enhance occupational safety. PAS/EM said that the Administration had a long-term objective to extend the requirement to construction sites and industrial undertakings employing less than 50 workers. Given the concept of safety management was relatively new in Hong Kong and as a start, the Administration planned to implement the requirement in construction sites and industrial undertakings employing 50 workers and above.
34. The Chairman asked for the timetable for extending the requirement to construction sites and industrial undertakings employing less than 50 workers. In response, DC for L said that workers were to be counted on an aggregate basis and workers working in different construction sites or container handling operations under the same proprietor or contractor would be counted as one industrial undertaking. Despite a difference between these two trades, both of them were in need of safety management. To start with, it was reasonable to implement the requirement in construction and industrial undertakings employing 50 or more workers.
35. Responding to Mr CHAN Wing-chan, PAS/EM said that a grace period of 14 months would be necessary so that the trades and workers could prepare for implementation of mandatory safety training. The training quota had taken into account the training need of the new recruits and the CITA was prepared to increase its training capacity if and when necessary. DC for L added that after the Regulation came into operation, decoration and renovation workers were also required to obtain valid certificates should they wish to work in construction sites.
36. Regarding the implementation of the Regulation, Mr Andrew CHENG questioned the rationale to provide a money value in respect of construction projects, given that projects with contract value of $100 million or more would be required to adopt 10 of the 14 safety management system. He asked what training was provided to safety auditors. Referring to the discussion on the FIU (Confined Space) Regulation by the Subcommittee on regulations relating to occupational safety and health, he said that the Administration agreed to add to the code of practice for the Regulation a provision on workers' rights to refuse work on the ground of hazard to safety or health.
37. The response of DC for L was as follows -
- Construction projects with contract vale of $100 million or more usually involved heavy mechanical operations, for example, in civil engineering projects even though the number of workers on site was small, hence a greater risk for industrial accidents;
- Training to safety auditors was being provided by the City University and the Polytechnic University. About 225 qualified safety auditors had been trained. Coupled with 120 safety auditors to be trained during the grace period, there would be sufficient manpower resources for implementation of the Regulation; and
- The Secretary for Education and Manpower would address the workers' rights to refuse dangerous work issue when he moved the motion on the FIU (Confined Space) Regulation.
|38. A written submission from Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions was tabled at the meeting. Mr LAU Chin-shek requested and PAS/EM agreed to provide a written reply to the submission.||Adm |
39. To conclude, the Chairman said that the Panel in general supported the objectives of the Bill and the Regulation.
40. There being no other business, the meeting ended at 6:40 pm.
Legislative Council Secretariat
17 March 1999