Government briefs Labour Advisory Board on enhanced measures for importation of skilled construction workers

The Government today (April 1) briefed the Labour Advisory Board on new measures for the construction industry under the Supplementary Labour Scheme. The purpose of these measures is to enhance flexibility in deployment of imported skilled workers with a view to utilising their productivity more effectively.

The Permanent Secretary for Development (Works), Mr Wai Chi-sing, attended the meeting and emphasised that these measures have been devised under the premise of according priority to employment of local workers and safeguarding their income levels, and they are only applicable to public sector works contracts.

"Applications must be submitted on an individual case basis and local recruitment exercises will be conducted. The relevant departments will strictly vet the applications and only those in genuine need will be approved. As such, there will be no extension of the scale of importation of workers. It is anticipated that allowing imported skilled workers to work across more than one public sector works contract will reduce the total number of imported workers required owing to the synergy effect," he said.

The new measures include the following:

(1) Contractors are allowed to deploy imported skilled workers to work across more than one of their public sector works contracts. Contractors need to clearly specify the works contracts concerned in their applications. The applications will only be considered for approval after the genuine need is established following vetting by the relevant departments, local recruitment exercises are conducted and advice is sought from the Labour Advisory Board;

(2) If there is room for deploying the skilled workers who have already been imported under existing works contracts, contractors are allowed to deploy them to work under their other specified public sector works contracts within the employment periods of the workers without affecting the works progress of the existing contracts. Nevertheless, the employment periods of the imported skilled workers cannot be extended; and

(3) If the progress of works is delayed due to unforeseen circumstances, contractors may extend the employment periods of the skilled workers who have already been imported up to a limited period for completing the relevant works processes, though the extension is limited to up to 12 months.

Measures 2 and 3 above cannot be applied concurrently. The related applications have to be vetted and supported by the relevant public works departments, and have to go through the local recruitment exercises before being considered for approval by the Labour Department.

The Government has also reinforced the regulatory measures to safeguard the interests of the workers and address the concern of the labour sector. The measures include the following:

(1) Labour Relations Officers deployed by works departments will check attendance and wage payment records of imported skilled workers under the relevant works contracts; and

(2) The Construction Industry Council will roll out an electronic card reading system starting at the end of this year, allowing swift retrieval of imported workers' site attendance records to assist the relevant departments in exercising law enforcement.

Mr Wai said that the Government will continue to work with the Construction Industry Council to proactively strengthen the training of local construction workers in a bid to upgrade semi-skilled workers to skilled workers. He added that the Labour Department is setting up the Construction Industry Recruitment Centre, scheduled for opening in the second half of the 2015-16 financial year, to assist local construction workers in seeking jobs.

"We will work out the implementation details of various measures with the Labour Department as early as possible with a view to launching them within this quarter. We will continue to keep close contact with the industry and review the effectiveness of the measures in a timely manner to ensure the sustainable development of the construction industry in Hong Kong," he said.

Ends/Wednesday, April 1, 2015
Issued at HKT 19:18