LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1613/96-97
(These minutes have been seen
by the Administration)
Ref: CB1/PL/MP/1

LegCo Panel on Manpower

Minutes of meeting held on Monday, 28 April 1997, 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 SZETO Wah
    Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong
    Hon Frederick FUNG Kin-kee
    Hon Michael HO Mun-ka
    Hon Henry TANG Ying-yen, JP
    Hon James TIEN Pei-chun, OBE, JP
    Hon LEE Cheuk-yan
    Hon CHAN Wing-chan
    Hon CHENG Yiu-tong
    Hon LEE Kai-man
    Hon LEUNG Yiu-chung
    Hon MOK Ying-fan

Members absent :

    Hon Ronald ARCULLI, OBE, JP
    Hon NGAI Shiu-kit, OBE, JP
    Dr Hon LEONG Che-hung, OBE, JP
    Hon LAW Chi-kwong
    Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee
    Hon TSANG Kin-shing

Public officers attending :

    Items V, VI & VII

    Mr Matthew CHEUNG, JP
    Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower

    Items IV, V & VI

    Ms Esther LEUNG
    Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower

    Item VII

    Mr Tony Reynalds
    Principal Assistant Secretary for Education and Manpower

    Item IV

    Ms Ingrid HO
    Principal Assistant Secretary for Security

    Mr T P WONG
    Assistant Director of Immigration(Special Duties)

    Item V

    Mrs Clare SIU
    Assistant Commissioner for Labour

    Item VI

    Mrs Jenny CHAN
    Chief Labour Officer

Clerk in attendance :

    Miss Polly YEUNG
    Chief Assistant Secretary(1)3

Staff in attendance :

    Miss Anita HO
    Assistant Legal Adviser 5

    Mrs Queenie YU
    Senior Assistant Secretary (1)8

I.Confirmation of minutes of meetings and matters arising

(LegCo Paper Nos. CB(1)1199/96-97 and 1270/96-97)

The minutes of the Panel meetings held on 24 February 1997 and 18 March 1997 were confirmed.

II.Date and items for discussion for next meeting

2.Members agreed to include the following into the agenda for the next Panel meeting to be held on Monday, 21 May 1997, at 2:30 pm.

Briefing on the Unfair Dismissal Bill (Member’s Bill introduced by Mr LEUNG Yiu-chung.)

3.Members noted that the last LegCo Sitting would likely commence on 23 June 1997 and agreed to re-schedule the last Panel meeting to Monday, 16 June 1997, at 2:30 pm.

III.Information papers since last meeting

4.No information paper had been issued since the last meeting.

IV.Briefing on Immigration (Amendment) (No.2) Bill 1997

(LegCo Paper Nos. CB(1)1365/96-97(01); 1398/96-97(01); 1398/96-97(02) and the Administration’s response tabled at the meeting subsequently issued vide LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1433/96-97(01))

5.Members noted that a Bills Committee had been formed to study the captioned Bill. The Chairman also informed the meeting that the Hong Kong Japanese Chamber of Commerce & Industry and the Hong Kong Chamber of Commerce of Industry had sent in their written views on the Bill. He advised that it would be more appropriate for the Bills Committee to examine these views in due course.

6.At the Chairman’s invitation, Miss CHAN Yuen-han explained that the issue of British citizens working in Hong Kong was first raised at the meeting of the Manpower Panel in May 1996. Upon conclusion of a review, the Administration had introduced the Immigration (Amendment) Bill 1997 which sought to remove the privileges inherent in the immigration status of British citizens provided under the current law. Nevertheless, she considered that the Administration’s proposed Bill had not effectively plugged the loophole and had therefore proposed the Bill which sought to remove the discretion of the Director of Immigration to ‘exempt certain persons’ from having to apply for employment visa apart from three groups of persons:

7.The Principal Assistant Secretary for Security (PAS for S) briefly explained that the Administration’s proposals in the Immigration (Amendment) Bill 1997 was mainly to remove the existing visa-free arrangements for British nationals working in Hong Kong and to abolish the special arrangements for the deportation of British citizens. The Administration believed Bill would achieve fully the objective of removing the privileged immigration status of British citizens.

8.Responding to members’ questions, PAS for S explained that all foreign nationals entering Hong Kong must have a valid entry visa. On arrival, depending on the merit of individual cases, an Immigration Officer would grant each visitor a specified period of stay in Hong Kong. For persons who possessed valid employment visas, an initial one-year period would normally be granted to the visa-holder subject to further extension as deemed appropriate by the Immigration Department. She also informed members that the Director of Immigration exercised his discretionary power under section 61(2) of the Immigration Ordinance two years ago to dispense with the requirement for persons on a limited period of stay to apply for a re-entry visa to return to Hong Kong after short trips.

9.Addressing members’ concerns on the practical effects of the Immigration (Amendment) (No.2) Bill on visa requirement for foreign nationals working in Hong Kong (including their spouse and dependents), the unconditional stay status and workload on the Immigration Department, PAS for S and the Assistant Director of Immigration (AD of I) provided the following clarification:-

  1. if the Bill is enacted, all foreign nationals would have to apply for re-entry visa before they left Hong Kong even for short trips. Otherwise, they would not be able to continue working upon return to Hong Kong. Operational experience had indicated that it would normally take four to six weeks to process a first time visa application and a few days to process a visa application for subsequent entry;

  2. the Director of Immigration would have no discretion at all to exempt foreign nationals from employment visa requirements. The Administration would have no flexibility to deal with unusual situations. The proposed arrangements would also tarnish Hong Kong’s reputation as an international business centre where expatriates could contribute to the economic well-being of Hong Kong;

  3. spouses and expatriate dependents of both foreign nationals and Hong Kong residents coming to join their family members in Hong Kong would not be able to work unless they had applied for an employment visa before their entry into Hong Kong;

  4. it would be impossible for the Director of Immigration to grant the unconditional stay status to any foreign national. As such, no matter how long a foreign national had lived in Hong Kong, he still had to apply for an employment visa to work here; and

  5. the Bill was a retrograde step which would create much inconvenience for foreign nationals. If enacted, it would also create an enormous amount of work for the Immigration Department.

10.Some members enquired about visa requirements for foreign nationals adopted in overseas countries. In reply, PAS for S said that similar discretionary power was exercised in New Zealand and Canada. Whole some members suggested that the Administration should collect more information on this aspect for future reference of the Bills Committee, a member cautioned that strict comparison with overseas countries might not be appropriate because of the unique "one-country, two-system" form of government in Hong Kong.

V. Administration’s Review on the Occupational Deafness Compensation Scheme and briefing on the Occupational Deafness (Compensation) (Amendment) Bill 1997

(LegCo Paper Nos. CB(1) 1365/96-97(02); 1398/96-97(03); 1405/96-97(01); 1398/96-97(04) and 1405/96-97(02))

Review on the Occupational Deafness Compensation Scheme

11.The Administration informed members that the figure in para 5(c) of the information paper issued vide LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1398/96-97(03) should be amended from 151 to 51.

12.The Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower (DS for E&M) reported that the Working Group (WG) set up in the Labour Department had recently completed the review of the scheme. Its recommendations for improvements were being studied by the Occupational Deafness Compensation Board (the Board). According to the Administration’s plan, the relevant legislative proposals to give effect to the improvements would be introduced in early 1998, after they had been finalised in consultation with the Labour Advisory Board(LAB).

13.Responding to members’ enquiry on whether the WG’s recommendations to revise the deafness threshold and the maximum percentage of permanent incapacity for compensation were similar to those proposed by Mr LEUNG Yiu-chung under the Occupational Deafness (Compensation) (Amendment) Bill 1997, the Assistant Commissioner for Labour (AC for L) replied that these two issues had been included in the WG’s review. The WG had proposed to relax the disability requirement for compensation by lowering the minimum level of hearing loss (deafness threshold) from 50dB to 40dB. However, the WG did not consider it appropriate to increase the maximum percentage of permanent incapacity from 60% to 100% for the purpose of compensation.

LD 14.At the request of Mr LEE Cheuk-yan, the Administration agreed to provide a breakdown by reasons for the 287 applications rejected during the period 1.7.1995 to 31.3.1997. For applications rejected for failing to meet the deafness threshold, the Administration was asked to provide further information on the degree of hearing loss suffered by the workers.

Occupational Deafness (Compensation) (Amendment) Bill 1997

15.Mr LEUNG Yiu-chung expressed his appreciation of the Administration having advanced the review to April 1996 and extended the deadline for filing claims by 12 months to 30 June 1997. Nevertheless, he was dissatisfied with the slow progress of the Administration in making concrete proposals to improve protection for employees suffering from noise-induced hearing loss. Members noted the following reasons highlighted by Mr LEUNG Yiu-chung for introducing the Bill:-

  1. the American Medical Association had in fact recommended hearing loss at 26.25dB as the minimum level of impairment and hearing loss exceeding 40dB as the medium level of impairment. It appeared that the Administration had only made reference to those overseas countries which adopted a threshold of hearing loss on the higher side;

  2. it was only fair to equate occupational deafness to 100% incapacity an in the case of trail deafness due to a work-related accident.. This was supported by the Bills Committee which studied the Occupational Deafness (Compensation) Bill in 1995; and

  3. the Administration should assess whether it was justified to enhance compensation for occupational deafness rather than restricting the proposed improvements on financial grounds.

16.In clarifying the position of the Administration, DS for E&M and AC for L advised as follows:

  1. the WG comprised medical professionals and audiologists. In examining the deafness threshold, appropriate reference had been made to scientific research and international standards. It should be noted that different countries adopted different deafness thresholds for compensating occupational deafness and in some countries, the effect of age on hearing loss had to be discounted when determining the degree of impairment;

  2. as the impact of occupational deafness developed insidiously over a long period of time, the traumatic impact of the disability was not as acute as that of a work-related accident. A person suffering from the disease was most likely to have continued working and might not have differed a total loss of earning capacity; and

  3. the Bill, if enacted, would exhaust the Occupational Deafness Compensation Fund within one year, resulting in a deficit of $60 million. It would be irresponsible of the Administration not to consider the financial implications.

17.In this connection, a member suggested that it would only be fair to charge the levy on employers of the specified noisy occupations such as the construction and manufacturing industries, instead of levying across the board in order to finance the Occupational Deafness Compensation Scheme. The Administration expressed reservation on this suggestion and indicated that there were plans to expand the schedule of noisy occupations for the purpose of claiming compensation.

EMB and Mr LEUNG Yiu-chung 18.After discussion, the Chairman asked both the Administration and Mr LEUNG Yiu-chung to provide further information from the medical aspects to justify their respective stance on the deafness threshold. Members also noted that the Bill would be forwarded to the LAB for consultation.

VI.Briefing on Employee’s Rights to Representation, Consultation and Collective Bargaining Bill

(LegCo Paper Nos. CB(1)1365/96-97(03); CB(1)1398/96-97(05) and a paper tabled by Mr LEE Cheuk-yan at the meeting and subsequently issued vide LegCo paper No. CB(1)1433/96-97(02))

EMB and


19.Mr LEE Cheuk-yan tabled a paper outliving his responses to the comments from the Administration and the Joint Concern Group of the Industrial/Commercial Sector on the Member’s Bill. The Administration was requested to provide written comments on his paper as soon as practicable. The Panel would forward the Administration’s views to the relevant Bills Committee for consideration.

20.At the Chairman’s invitation, Mr LEE briefed members on salient provisions of his Bill, in particular the employee’s right to be consulted by their employers on business plans such as changes in ownership, relocation and re-structuring and the employee’s right to be covered by a collective agreement negotiated with the employer by a representative trade union.

21.A member queried the need for legislation on compulsory collective bargaining in Hong Kong having regard to the fact that the current practice of dispute resolution had been working well. Moreover, employees were capable of organizing themselves and if necessary, would elect representatives to negotiate direct with their employers. He also opened that the low unemployment rate in Hong Kong had put employees in a favorable bargaining position vis a vis their employers.

22.In this connection, the Chief Labour Officer (CLO) advised that voluntary and direct negotiation between employers and employees at the enterprise level was always encouraged. The Administration did not have statistics on dispute cases which had been resolved without intervention by the Labour Department. In 1996, the Labour Department had handled 226 labour disputes, of which the majority had been resolved and 17 cases had resulted in strike action.

23.For purpose of elucidation, Mr LEE Cheuk-yan explained that a distinction must be drawn between direct negotiation between employers and employees on an ad-hoc basis and a formal, institutionalised system of consultation and negotiation. He confirmed that his Bill sought to formalise and regulate the employee’s right to representation, consultation and collective bargaining. He disagreed that the Bill would lead to abuse because these would be stringent pre-requisites on the number of persons employed as well as the percentage of union membership. As regards the proposal that collective bargaining should be practised in establishments employing 50 persons or more, Mr LEE considered the threshold number appropriate as this represented 2% of all establishments in Hong Kong and covered a total of 900,000 workers accounting for 40% of the workforce.

24.Indicating their support for legislation on collective bargaining, some members expressed the following views:

  1. low unemployment rate might not necessarily increase employees’ bargaining power and some labour groups had reservations on the Administration’s unemployment figures. Workers in fact encountered considerable difficulties in seeking jobs;

  2. at present, many voluntary collective bargaining mechanism in large establishments were increasingly conservative and even inactive;

  3. the Administration’s information that 5% of the workforce was engaged in collective bargaining was misleading because consultation on annual salary review and the demand for a decent working environment discussed at joint consultative committees were inappropriately included as collective negotiations;

  4. consultation and collective bargaining would not just benefit employees. An effective negotiation mechanism could serve to prevent labour disputes, ensure speedy dispute resolution and ultimately enhance overall productivity.

25.Apart from the reasons listed in its information paper for not supporting the Bill, DS for E&M considered that Hong Kong had achieved a harmonious labour relations system in which the interests of employers and employees were properly balanced and that the Bill would not be conducive to maintaining the existing good system. Members noted that the LAB would be consulted on the Bill.

VII.Practical Guidelines for Employers - Eliminating Age Discrimination in Employment

(LegCo Paper No. CB(1)1365/96-97(04))

26.Responding to members’ serious reservations on the effectiveness of non-statutory measures in eliminating age discrimination in employment, DS for E&M explained that the Administration had not ruled out the legislative option in future but believed that for the present, a programme of public education, publicity and self-regulation was the most appropriate way of dealing with age discrimination in employment. The Administration would review the usefulness of the practical guidelines after one year through a questionnaire survey and wide consultation. Mr LEUNG Yiu-chung, however, doubted whether there was any precedent case in which the Administration had introduced relevant legislation after issuing practical guidelines.

27.A member queried that whilst inviting members’ comments on the practical guidelines for elimination of age discrimination, the Administration had imposed age limits on security personnel under the Security and Guarding Services Ordinance. DS for E&M clarified in reply that might be very few exceptions where age was a genuine job or occupational requirement and this must be distinguished from discrimination..

LD 28.Referring to the ban since April 1995 on the stipulation of age requirement in job orders placed with the Labour Department, Mr LEE Cheuk-yan requested the Administration to provide information on the age profile of the successful job applicants both before and after the removal of age requirement in order to gauge the effectiveness of this measure which sought to eliminate age discrimination in recruitment.

29.The meeting ended at 4:30 pm.

Legislative Council Secretariat

17 May 1997

Last Updated on 21 August 1998