The Housing Authority (HA) of Hong Kong decided on Thursday to resort to six new improvement measures in their building contracts from May 2006 onwards to secure and monitor wages payment to workers.
"These measures demonstrate the HA's commitment to improving security of the payment of wages to workers and avoiding wages dispute," said Ip Kwok-him, the Chairman of the Building Committee.
"We believe that these measures should work in tandem with the enforcement actions under the statutory legislation so as to achieve the best deterrent effect," Ip added.
The measures require contractors to appoint Labor Relations Officers to work on site to check and verify the records of workers in employment, attendance, payment of wages and acknowledgment of receipt so as to monitor the whole situation and identify any anomaly.
"The officer will also be responsible to receive, acknowledge and record complaints and inquiries from workers. Suspicious cases, complaints and defaults will be reported to Labor Department for further investigation, verification, resolution, prosecution and enforcement as appropriate under the legislation," Ip said.
He promised that the Housing Authority would then take necessary actions under the terms of the contract and List Management against any proven default.
To effectively monitor wage payment to workers, contractors and sub-contractors are required to pay their workers through auto-pay bank account, according to the new measures.
In proven cases of default, a new measure allows the employer to effect payment of outstanding wages to workers by the contractor verified by the Labor Department and ordered by the Labor Tribunal. The sum will then be deducted from the contract sum as a debt from the contractor.
"The measure also facilitates the contractors to recover the money from the sub-contracts after paying the workers of their sub-contractor direct in case of defaults by their sub-contractors which has been required under the legislation," he said.
He said although these new measures cannot be included in the 16 existing building contracts, the Housing Authority will encourage these contractors to introduce the measures on a voluntary basis.
Referring to a proposal for the HA to use the Retention Money for the three construction contracts forfeited to pay the workers their overdue wages, the Housing Department held that there was no legal and contractual basis for the HA to do so.
(Xinhua News Agency March 17, 2006)