Jail sentences of up to three years proposed for illegal workers employment

Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Issue 532, Page 4
Word count: 553
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

The standing committee of the Legislative Council proposed in the draft of the foreign labour law a three year jail sentence for employers who hire labourers without work permits in Macau.

The Third Standing Committee continued deliberation on the law yesterday based on the work report that was released within the committee last week and included 46 articles instead of 24 in the first copy of the bill submitted by the government early this year.

President of the committee, Cheang Chi Keong, said the work report which extracted opinions obtained from previous meetings suggested that employers who recruited non-local residents with no work permits or commonly known as blue cards issued by the local authority, could serve up to three years in prison.

Meanwhile, if employers hired people whose work permits were expired, the standing committee proposed a jail sentence of up to six months for offenders.

However, Mr Cheang said the government representatives including Francis Tam Pak Yuen, the Secretary for Economy and Finance, told the committee members in the meeting that there were “concerns in relation to execution of the proposed sentence”.

The representatives said that the court nowadays usually handed down probations to offenders for employing illegal workers which would eventually be replaced by a fine ranging from 50 patacas to 10,000 patacas a day.

Not only did the penalty have no “deterrent effect”, but also as the amount of the fine could vary significantly, the government officials said people who committed crimes “less severe than illegal workers employment” might even have to pay a bigger fine.

Mr Cheang both the Legislative Council and the government agreed the adoption of jail sentences was an act to “reinforce the strength in combating illegal workers”, thus the standing committee would further discuss the article at the next meeting this Friday on how to improve the effectiveness of the law.

On the other hand, the committee president said the members had different opinions about when employers should start paying the government charges for importing non-local workers.

He said some argued that companies only had to pay the charges for foreign workers hired after the law came into effect or upon renewal of their contracts, while some other lawmakers deemed companies should pay for all of their imported workers no matter when they start working in Macau.

At the same time, the committee members also talked about whether non-local labourers should be given compensation when they were forced to leave Macau as ordered by the government due to social or economic factors.

Mr Cheang said lawmakers deemed it was “not right” to pay them by using public funds, and thus the committee did not yet reach an agreement on the issue yesterday.

In addition, the government representatives said the foreign labour law would not set out ratios of imported workers in different industries and a “departure system” for non-local workers, but added that the government had internal guidelines and learned from the recent experience of arranging departure for the Venetian’s mass imported workers.

The next standing committee meeting will be held on Friday at 11am in which no government representatives will attend.

Mr Cheang said they were requested to hand in the final proposal to the Legislative Council by the end of this month before the draft could be voted in the plenary meeting.

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