Beleaguered television station ATV has re-hired around 160 employees on Saturday to keep its broadcasts going until its licence expires on April 1. However, staff members could not pursue payment of their outstanding wages until after that date, which Secretary for Labour and Welfare said was “undesirable.”
The move came just one day after ATV’s entire body of staff was laid off by its provisional liquidator, Deloitte. However, a deal was struck on Friday evening and the court agreed to a restructuring plan put forward by ATV’s new investor, China Cultural Media Group’s Si Rongbin.
Earlier that day, ATV had held a press conference, during which they criticised Deloitte’s decision to shut down the company and flaunted a suitcase filled with cash, which the television station said would be used to pay wages and operating costs.
Under the new contracts however, ATV staff are not to recover their wages owed for the months of January and February until April 2, an approach which Secretary for Labour and Welfare Matthew Cheung Kin-chung called “undesirable,” RTHK reported.
“As regards [to] this contract, employers and employees are free to negotiate any terms provided they don’t violate the provisions of the Employment Ordinance, but I must stress that any clause in the employment agreement which purports to distinguish or reduce the rights, the benefits and also protection [conferred] to the employee… shall be void,” Cheung said. Cheung also warned employees against signing anything that may undermine their own rights.
According to ATV senior public relations manager Jeff Wong, the staff has already had their wages paid for March in cash by China Cultural Media Group. He also said that ATV will be looking at ways to change its operation model so it will be able to live on in other ways after April 1 – such as by becoming an online television channel.
RTHK will be taking over ATV’s analogue channels starting next month by extending the running time of RTHK’s existing shows and increasing the number of programmes on channel 31. RTHK Programme Staff Union chairwoman Choy Yuk-ling said there was a lot of pressure on RTHK. She said some colleagues have expressed worries about whether they would do a good job and if the change would affect the credibility of the new division.