Sparks fly around Express contractor

Local | Riley Chan 6 Dec 2017

Seventeen electrical workers employed at the Express Rail Link's West Kowloon Station claim they have been fired for refusing to sign a self-employment contract.

In a latest controversy involving the project, the workers who were employed by Kai Mei (HK) Engineering said they were faced on November 14 with a self-employment contract demand that would take away all labor holidays and paid annual leave with retrospective effect from September.

They refused to sign it and demanded to talk to an executive. A meeting was arranged the next day, but no one from Kai Mei showed up.

The workers told their story in two videos uploaded by the Neighbourhood and Worker's Service Centre on Facebook.

With his back to the camera and voice altered, one said it was felt the firm wanted to drag out the issue and lacked sincerity in trying to resolve it, so "we decided to seek help from the Labour Department."

That was followed by the company making an announcement via WhatsApp that all 17 workers had been fired due to an "absence from duty."

The worker said the firing was "unacceptable. We are very disappointed."

Another worker said: "They shouldn't make public all the names in a WhatsApp group and tell everyone we are fired Others must wonder why people are fired. It will greatly affect our future employment opportunities."

Wong Hiu-kwan, an organizer for the center, said the company had a poor attitude.

"They told the workers 'if you don't like it then quit,'" Wong said.

The 17 say Kai Mei must settle outstanding wages including pay in lieu of notice and also what is due from the mandatory provident fund or they will take action.

The company has refused to comment on the matter, but the Labour Department is following up.

While this case involves a contractor, the rail link project has been controversial. That includes activists and pro-democracy politicians claiming there is little demand for the service and expressing concern over mainland immigration, customs and health officers being posted at the Kowloon station.

And there have been delays and huge cost overruns since construction began in 2009. The final cost is now at HK$84.4 billion, exceeding initial estimates by 30 percent.

Completion has gone from 2015 to the third quarter of 2018.

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