Hope dimming for Apple staff seeking to collect their pay

Finance | Amy Nip and Sophie Hui 22 Jun 2021

Apple Daily reporters will have a tough time obtaining their outstanding wages and severance payments due to the government's freezing of Next Digital's assets, a union leader says.

Under the Employment Ordinance, a company which closes down and lays off staff should make severance pay to those who have worked for two years or more. An employee who has worked for no less than five years is eligible for long-service payment.

It is highly unlikely that Apple Daily will be able to settle all outstanding wages and other payments when its assets are frozen by the government.

Staff may apply for the Protection of Wages on Insolvency Fund, which pays employees of insolvent companies to cover wages, untaken annual leave and untaken statutory holidays, wages in lieu of notice or severance payment owed to them.

However, Confederation of Trade Unions chief executive Mung Siu-tat said the insolvency fund only caters to companies which are being wound up.

"Apple Daily's case is complicated. With the government freezing Next Digital's assets, it is unclear if the winding-up process can start," he said.

Mung said the government should unfreeze its assets so it could pay staff. It should also come forward and explain if the insolvency fund is applicable in this case.

"Never before was a company's assets frozen due to political reasons the government did not consider the livelihood of employees," he said.

The Hong Kong Journalists Association called upon the Security Bureau to protect labor rights by unfreezing assets for salary payments.

"It is the most fundamental right for a worker to get paid after making efforts," it stated.

An Apple Daily reporter was told that salary arrangement was not discussed in yesterday's board meeting.

"Most of us do not have much hope We are prepared," he said.

Another reporter who has been working at the newspaper for eight months said he will work there till the end, but some of his colleagues are resigning.

"I am very upset. When I was a student, I did not appreciate the newspaper's style or some reports, but Apple Daily is always a symbol of freedom," he said.

"We do not need to worry about censorship or red lines here. We can do any stories we want as long as they are good and professional news stories."

The reporter said he will continue to work in the news industry after leaving Apple Daily. "It will be a more difficult path, but I will keep going on," he said.

Barrister Albert Luk Wai-hung cautioned that Apple Daily reporters should think carefully before tendering their resignation.

If they resigned, they would not be eligible for severance payments, which is money that would be owed to them in the case of dismissal, he said.



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