AmCham staff decry hefty bonus of boss amid layoffs

Top News | Staff reporter 2 Jun 2020

The American Chamber of Commerce has given its president, Tara Joseph, a hefty bonus despite financial woes, Sing Tao Daily reported.

As the city's 1,300 US companies brace for the storm caused by President Donald Trump's vow to cancel Hong Kong's special status, the chamber representing them is facing an internal crisis of its own.

The chamber has been in the red since 2017, with the deficit increasing from HK$660,000 that year to HK$1.57 million in 2018.

It is expected to reach HK$2.5 million this year, a source said.

In order to cut costs, it had to resort to sackings, with staff numbers falling from 26 to 14 by the beginning of 2020 over the course of three years.

However, the financial situation has failed to improve.

Staff members were told around February that they should collect corporate membership fees from corporate members before they are due by the end of the year, or to ask them to prepay next year's fees.

They later discovered Joseph received a bonus worth hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong dollars - more than the total amount of bonuses received by all other staff.

Workers wrote an e-mail to the board of governors questioning the decision, and a panel made up of two board members - a former member and a former president - was convened to follow up.

The panel met staff on May 26, after which Joseph fired the chamber's three remaining senior managers, leaving only 11 junior staff.

The three have sent a lawyer's letter to the chamber complaining about their unreasonable dismissal and demanding compensation.

The chamber's chairman, Robert Grieves, said he would not comment on personnel issues.

"The chamber operates in accordance with the highest standards of corporate governance," he said.

It will continue to work with member companies to maintain Hong Kong's status as a vital global business and financial center, Grieves said.

"We are moving forward on a number of initiatives, including investing in technology with a digital mindset," he added.

On the other hand, Joseph told Bloomberg yesterday that a lot is at stake for US companies and it will take a while before the market sees any major changes as a result of the proposed national security law and Trump's action.

"We are at a very difficult juncture, caught in the middle of Sino-US tiff. We are starting to feel like collateral damage here," she said.

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