The chairwoman of the Confederation of Trade Unions, Carol Ng, has condemned the government's salary relief scheme after it emerged that almost a quarter of recipients under the first tranche had been forced to pay back the unpaid handout.
About 20,000 employers received funds, but 23 percent were found to have broken the rules by sacking staff or failing to use all of the money to pay wages. As well as returning the subsidy that has not been spent, they will have to pay a penalty.
Speaking to an RTHK radio programme, Ng said the high number of breaches shows that the scheme was poorly-designed and lacked effective deterrents to stop bosses from breaking the rules, and that the penalties do nothing to help workers.
She also said the government's recently-released unemployment figures – which showed the jobless rate in the three months ending August stood at 6.1 percent – did not reflect the true unemployment situation in Hong Kong.
Ng said that there were still instances of employers who keep workers on as required under the government relief scheme yet force workers to take unpaid leave, and that those who have seen reduced income because of the pandemic needed to take on another part-time job to make ends meet.
She repeated calls for the administration to give subsidies directly to workers, and for the government to create more employment opportunities in the meantime.
Meanwhile, the honorary chairman of the Hong Kong Small and Medium Enterprises Association Danny Lau that he expected the unemployment rate to rise to 6.3 percent.
Lau said the impact of the third wave of Covid-19 infections and the stricter social distancing measures would be reflected in the next jobless figure.