LEGCO QUESTION NO.2(ORAL REPLY)
Date of sitting : 30.01.2002
Asked by : Hon LEE Cheuk-yan
Replied by : SEM
I have received complaints about the long time taken by the Labour Department ("LD") in arranging conciliation meetings on labour claims and processing applications for ex-gratia payment from the Protection of Wages on Insolvency Fund. Furthermore, it has been reported that staff of the LD have complained about substantial increase in their work pressure due to shortage of manpower. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
- of the following figures for each branch office of the LD in each of the past three years: the number of claims received, the number of conciliation meetings arranged for claims, the average time taken for convening the first conciliation meeting since a claim has been lodged, the average numbers of conciliation meetings handled and consultative interviews attended by each Labour Officer ("LO") and Assistant Labour Officer ("ALO") on each working day respectively;
- of the respective numbers, broken down by processing time, of applications for ex-gratia payment the LD handled in each of the past three years, as well as the average numbers of cases handled by each LO and ALO on each working day respectively; and
- whether it will increase the manpower of LD to shorten the time taken for arranging conciliation meetings and processing applications for ex-gratia payment, so as to improve the services of the LD and reduce the work pressure of its staff?
- In the past three years, the Labour Relations Division (LRD) of the Labour Department (LD) received a total of 94,378 claims, i.e. 31,462 claims in 1999, 29,956 claims in 2000 and 32,960 claims in 2001. A breakdown of the number of claims received by each branch office in the past three years is at Annex 1.
Upon receipt of the claims, the LRD offices will arrange conciliation meetings for employers and employees concerned. Figures showing the average waiting time for conciliation meetings to be arranged in respect of each branch office in the past three years are at Annex 2. In 2001, the average waiting time was between 4.4 and 5.6 weeks.
Conciliation meetings on claims are conducted by Assistant Labour Officers I (ALO Is), with each officer handling an average of six conciliation meetings a day. The LD does not maintain statistics on the number of conciliation meetings held in the past three years by branch office or officer. Figures on consultative interviews conducted by each officer are also unavailable as counter consultation service is normally provided by clerical staff rather than conciliation officers.
- Applications submitted by employees to the Protection of Wages on Insolvency Fund (PWIF) for ex-gratia payment are processed by the Wage Security Unit (WSU) of the LD. The table at Annex 3 shows figures in the past three years on the time required for WSU to effect payment to eligible employees after winding-up/bankruptcy petitions against insolvent employers were filed or recommendations by the Legal Aid Department for payment to non-petition cases were made. In 2001, the average time required for effecting payment was about 5.1 weeks.
Claims from individual applicants are assessed by the WSU on their own merits, hence the time required for effecting payment may vary among applicants of the same insolvency case. We do not keep statistics on the payment lead time of individual cases.
A breakdown showing the average daily caseload of a Labour Officer (LO) and an ALO in the past three years is at Annex 4. In 2001, an LO on average processed 6 applications on a working day whereas an ALO processed 2.9 applications.
Insolvency cases of large and medium-sized companies, which involve a larger number of applicants, are taken up by LOs while those of small-sized companies are mostly handled by ALOs. As small-sized companies seldom deploy manpower on maintaining payroll and employment records and there has been an increasing number of the persons-in-charge going into hiding in the face of insolvency, ALOs have to spend more time on collecting and verifying case information. For this reason, the average number of applications processed by an ALO per working day dropped slightly during the three years from 1999 to 2001.
- In the wake of the financial turmoil in 1997, the number of claims received by the LRD has risen, thereby lengthening the waiting time for conciliation meetings. The LD has taken a number of measures to reduce the waiting time. These include streamlining work procedures, re-demarcating the district boundaries of some branch offices to even out the distribution of claims, and redeploying manpower within the LRD to cope with the sudden upsurge of workload in individual offices.
Funding approval has been obtained for the creation of seven ALO I posts in the LRD for a period of three years starting from 2002-03. As for the WSU, additional staff have already been provided through internal redeployment, and funds will be made available for recruiting five case processing officers on contract terms to cope with the increased workload.
These measures to provide additional resources will help enhance LD's delivery of service and alleviate the work pressure on its staff.
Number of claims received by each branch office of the Labour Relations Division of the Labour Department in the past three years
|Hong Kong East||5,536||4,830||5,200|
|Hong Kong West||3,469||3,256||3,494|
Average waiting time (in terms of weeks) for conciliation meetings to be arranged for claims in each branch office of the Labour Relations Division of the Labour Department in the past three years
|Hong Kong East||4.8||4.4||5.3|
|Hong Kong West||4.9||4.5||5.4|
Time required for the WSU to effect ex-gratia payments to eligible employees in the past three years (calculated as from winding-up/bankruptcy petitions against insolvent employers were filed or recommendations by the Legal Aid Department for payment to non-petition cases were made)
|Time required to effect payment||Number of affected employees|
|4 weeks or less||5,300 (37%)||4,318 (38%)||5,050 (43%)|
|between 4 to 6 weeks||2,635 (18%)||2,015 (18%)||1,686 (15%)|
|between 6 to 8 weeks||3,317 (23%)||1,921 (17%)||1,374 (12%)|
|between 8 to 10 weeks||3,219 (22%)||3,012 (27%)||3,519 (30%)|
| ||14,471 (100%)||11,266 (100%)||11,629 (100%)|
|Average time required to effect payment||5.3 weeks||5.3 weeks||5.1 weeks|
Average daily caseload of a Labour Officer and an Assistant Labour Officer in the past three years
|Year||Average number of applications |
processed per working day
|Labour Officer||AssistantLabour Officer|