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RMJM plays down staff payment fears following HK director's salvo

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A principal at RMJM’s Hong Kong studio has been put under ‘formal review’ following allegations the company failed to pay staff in full and on time

In a statement issued on Wednesday, RMJM chief executive Peter Morrison described principal Catherine Siu’s claims about cash flow, as well as allegations Morrison had personally failed in his responsibility to protect the interests of staff and creditors, as ‘exaggerated’.

In Siu’s letter to Morrison, which she also circulated to other staff, she said: ‘Please be advised that I have filed a complaint with the Hong Kong Labour Department regarding your decision not to honor your obligation to pay staff salaries in Hong Kong, in full and on time.’

The letter went on to accuse the company of ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’, alleging that the company only paid staff and creditors when threatened with legal action or they complained.

She added: ‘Surely, when your father [Fraser Morrison] first bought this business for you, it came with a User’s Manual of sorts. 

‘It is completely illegitimate to argue that the risk of client payments be shifted directly to staff and creditors. If this is your position then, you are, in effect, conceding the firm’s bankruptcy’.

Declan Thompson, RMJM’s group commercial director, described Sui’s allegations as ‘bizarre’.

He said: ‘Over the Chinese New Year period a series of slow payments from clients resulted in some salary payments being late, but principals and directors demonstrated laudable leadership by prioritising these and other commitments over their own personal positions.

‘Our business in Hong Kong is performing well, with a secured order book of $24m, including major commissions in Hyderabad and Chong Ching.’

Morrison added: ‘From a low point of $75m, our pipeline of work stood at $125m at the end of 2010. In the first eight weeks of this year, a series of significant project wins across our global network has further strengthened our position and we are now actively recruiting architects.

‘As this work kicks in, and with the strong support of our bankers and shareholders, our funding is normalising after the much-documented issues experienced over the last two very difficult years.’

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