DRAFT LEGCO QUESTION No. 2(ORAL REPLY)
Date of sitting : 6 June 2001
Asked by : Hon.Chan Kwok-keung
Replied by : Secretary for Education and Manpower
At present, proprietors in the construction industry may employ only workers holding valid certificates (commonly known as "green cards") certifying their attendance at recognized safety training courses for carrying out the related work. It has been reported that some law-breakers arrange for Mainlanders to come and work illegally at construction sites in Hong Kong and provide them with forged green cards. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
- of the number of illegal workers arrested at construction sites since last January and, among them, the number of those who were found holding forged green cards and the number of illegal workers who were convicted;
- whether it will consider enhancing the security design of the green cards; and
- whether it regularly organizes activities to teach proprietors how to distinguish authentic green cards from forged ones; if so, of the details?
- From January 2000 to 30th April 2001, a total of 450 suspected illegal workers were arrested by the Immigration Department and the Hong Kong Police Force during their joint operations at construction sites. Of the 294 suspected illegal workers already prosecuted by the Immigration Department, 275 have been convicted.
Under the Factories and Industrial Undertakings (Amendment) Ordinance 1999, which came into effect on 1st May 2001, all construction workers must have attended recognized safety training courses and carry with them valid certificates (commonly known as "green cards"). As at the end of May, the Labour Department ("LD") has not seized any forged "green cards" during its inspections. We are, however, very concerned about the reported use of forged "green cards". The LD will pay particular attention to the authenticity of "green cards" in its future inspections.
- We have reasons to believe that those who use forged "green cards" are mostly illegal workers. This is because a worker may be issued a "green card" on the same day after completing a one-day basic safety training course and passing a test. It is unnecessary for local workers to use forged "green cards" for working at construction sites. In fact, over 350 000 "green cards" have so far been issued to construction workers.
The purpose of issuing "green cards" to construction workers is to certify the holders' completion of the safety training required in law. To prevent untrained persons from working at construction sites by way of forged "green cards", the LD will liaise with various training providers on the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of introducing anti-forgery designs to "green cards". Indeed, if proprietors increase their vigilance in refraining from hiring illegal workers, the problem of forged "green cards" could be eliminated.
- Before the implementation of the legislation regarding "green cards", the LD has written to employers' associations in April this year urging them to remind members to be vigilant against the possible emergence of forged "green cards. The LD has also written to authorized training providers requesting them to provide assistance to proprietors or contractors in verifying the authenticity of the "green cards" where necessary.
Holders of forged "green cards" are mostly illegal workers. To employ illegal workers is a very serious offence, and the offender shall be liable on conviction to a maximum penalty of a fine of $350,000 and three years' imprisonment. Before offering employment to workers, proprietors in the construction industry should scrutinize carefully if the workers possess valid identity cards and other necessary documents. If they are in doubt, they should immediately seek assistance from relevant government departments and training providers.
As the use of the "green cards" has become more commonplace, employers and employees should be more familiar with it. At present we have no plans to organize regular activities to teach proprietors how to distinguish authentic "green cards" from forged ones. Relevant government departments will, however, in the course of their day-to-day publicity and inspection work, continue to remind proprietors to be vigilant against illegal workers and the appropriate actions to take.