No winners in staff disputes


The satellite TV station I founded, China Entertainment Television Broadcast Ltd (CETV,) has a secure future now that Time Warner has come on board as a partner. In its earlier days, CETV had more than its fair share of financial problems. At one stage I had to make half the staff redundant. This has been widely reported in the media. There have been false reports and rumours suggesting that I did not pay my staff or cut their salaries. This "For the Record" section aims to set the record straight.

I would like to point out that everyone who worked at CETV was paid in full what they were owed. And throughout the recent Asian recession, while companies were cutting salaries and benefits just because their margins were squeezed, I never cut wages. Although CETV was on the verge of closing down many times, everyone was paid in full.

I admit salaries were sometimes paid late. This resulted in a group of employees taking the company to the Labour Court. Under Hong Kong Labour Law they would only be compensated for their term of service if they were terminated, not in the case of resignation, so they went to Court claiming the late payment amounted to dismissal. It was not a case of winning or losing. I just paid them what they were owed.

In the end the staff who took the company to court suffered because many have still not been able to find full time employment. Had they remained loyal and supported the company they would still have jobs. By going for the quick windfall of full compensation for time served they have effectively traded their jobs for a one-off payment. It must have also hurt their self esteem to nearly drive the company into bankruptcy.

Staff disputes always cast the company concerned in a negative light in the eyes of the public. You need to consider the real issues. Any salary cut or redundancy done for the sake of a company's survival should be supported in my opinion. Once the company is on a more secure financial footing, staff made redundant can be reemployed.

Staff made redundant should consider the reason they were asked to leave. If an entire department has been scrapped, then the redundancy is probably not related to any past performance of the employees. On the other hand if the number working in a department has been cut, then those made redundant tend to be the poor performers.

The lesson for me from this staff dispute was that nobody ends up winning.