RMJM bosses Peter Morrison and Declan Thompson have been found guilty by magistrates in Hong Kong of failing to pay staff wages
The directors of RMJM Hong Kong Limited were each fined HK$93,000 (about £7,900) for the offences, which included failing to honour ‘termination payments’ and not settling previous awards by the Labour Tribunal ( AJ 14.02.14).
Hong Kong’s Eastern Magistrates’ Court also ordered the pair to clear the outstanding payments and tribunal-awarded sum to the employees, totalling HK$1.5 million (about £125,000).
The individual prosecutions were launched by the Hong Kong Labour Department following legal action by former staff from RMJM’s Hong Kong studio, who had sought £236,000 in unpaid wages from the troubled company.
According to a statement released by the Hong Kong Government, the two directors were convicted for their ‘consent, connivance or neglect in the wage offences and defaulting on payment of the Labour Tribunal award’.
A spokesman for the Labour Department said the the judgment would ‘disseminate a strong message to all company directors and responsible persons that they have to ensure that wages are paid to employees in accordance with the Employment Ordinance and that an award is paid according to the terms of the award issued by the Labour Tribunal or the Minor Employment Claims Adjudication Board.’
He added: ‘The Labour Department does not tolerate the above offences and will spare no effort in enforcing the law and protecting employees’ statutory rights.’
Former marketing director for RMJM Hong Kong, Liliana Silva, who gave evidence at the trial and says she is still owed £26,873 in unpaid wages by the company, said: ‘[I’m glad] that the criminal court found the directors guilty. However, the sentence and fine don’t reflect the seriousness of the crimes they commited nor retribute the damage done to over 30 employees.’
Responding to the judgements, Peter Morrison said: ‘This situation arose as a consequence of the impact of the global recession, which the company sought to weather in the best interest of all stakeholders, including the employees, rather than simply allowing the company to fold, leaving the workforce without jobs.
‘We have previously made clear to the Department of Labour our intention to pay outstanding salaries and arrangements are being made to pay the penalties.
‘We are pleased that this brings the matter to a close. There is no intention to appeal.’
Previous story (AJ 12.09.14)
RMJM bosses face three years in prison over unpaid wages
RMJM directors Peter Morrison and Declan Thompson could face up to three years in prison after Hong Kong’s Labour Department launched proceedings against them
The prosecution is the latest development in a long-running dispute which escalated last year when former staff from RMJM’s Hong Kong studio took legal action against the company for £236,000 in unpaid wages.
The Labour Department has taken out 19 summons for criminal prosecution against Thompson and Morrison under the country’s Employment Ordinance relating to previous wage offences.
In February this year RMJM Hong Kong Limited was fined HK$53,200 (£4,100) for failing to pay salaries on time. The company has been convicted on four occasions for offences relating to wage payment and defaulting on payment of Labour Tribunal awards during the period from July 2011 to May 2013. It had been fined a total of HK$68,000 as a result.
The department had previously stated that prosecution would be taken against company directors if there was ‘sufficient evidence that any wage offence is committed with their consent, connivance or negligence’.
A spokesman for the Labour Department said: ‘[We] take a serious view on wage offences and defaults on payment of Labour Tribunal awards. We undertake investigation promptly against any suspected cases and stringent enforcement actions against employers if there is sufficient evidence. If a company has committed wage offences and/or defaults on payment of tribunal awards with the consent, connivance or neglect of its director or responsible person, the culpable director or responsible person may also be prosecuted.’
Liquidator Vision, which was appointed to take over the affairs of RMJM Hong Kong Limited after it was wound up in February (AJ 24.02.14), said it ‘was still investigating the affairs of RMJM’.
Vision confirmed the action had been taken against Thompson and Morrison for contravening sections 23 and 25 of the Employment Ordinance.
If found guilty, the directors could be liable to a maximum fine of HK$350,000 (£28,000) and imprisonment for three years.
Former marketing director for RMJM Hong Kong, Liliana Silva, who says she is still owed £26,873 in unpaid wages by the company, said: ‘We are pleased that the Hong Kong Labour Department is prosecuting this case and we hope this time we can get a final resolution to this long process.’
The case will be heard at Hong Kong’s Eastern Magistrates’ Court on October 10.
Declan Thompson declined to comment. Peter Morrison was unavailable for comment.
Labour Department action
According to Section 23 and 25 of the Employment Ordinance in Hong Kong, wages due upon expiry of the last day of the wage period or upon termination of employment shall be paid as soon as practicable, but not later than seven days. Any employer who fails to do so wilfully and without reasonable excuse is liable to a maximum fine of HK$350,000 and imprisonment for three years
Section 64B of the Employment Ordinance stipulates that where any wage payment offence committed by a body corporate is proved to have been committed with the consent or connivance of, or to be attributable to any neglect on the part of, any director, manager, secretary or other similar officer of the body corporate, the director, manager, secretary or other similar officer shall be guilty of a like offence, and be liable to a maximum fine of HK$350,000 and imprisonment for three years.
RMJM is suspected to have contravened Section 23 & 25 of the Employment Ordinance. As the directors of RMJM, the said breach of the Employment Ordinance by RMJM is suspected to have been committed with their consent or connivance or neglect.