Employees of Asia Television Ltd. (ATV) are still waiting for their salaries for December, after the troubled television station delayed paying their wages for November.
The broadcaster has reportedly offered to pay the December salaries, but on condition that the staff enter into a loan agreement with a company owned by Wong Ben-koon, the company’s largest shareholder, am730 reported Thursday.
Management reportedly made the offer in a bid to ease the employees’ financial burden as the Lunar New Year draws near.
However, some staff members suspect the offer is an attempt by management to turn the responsibility of paying their salaries into employees’ liabilities.
Barrister Albert Luk Wai-hung said it is ridiculous that employees who have yet to be paid their salaries are now being turned into debtors of the company.
While refusing to speculate on the motive behind the offer, Luk said employees should pursue their backpay claims through other means, such as filing an application to wind down the company or applying for the Protection of Wages on Insolvency Fund.
Reporters failed to reach ATV senior vice president Yip Ka-bo for comments. An ATV spokesperson admitted that Wong’s company made the loan offer to employees, but stressed that it was unrelated to ATV.
The Labour Department said it could not comment on financial arrangements between ATV staff and a third party, especially in this case were little information was available.
Meanwhile, Secretary for Labour and Welfare Matthew Cheung said his department is close to completing its investigation into the non-payment of ATV staff salaries and will seek advice from the Department of Justice.
Lai Ka-yan, a partner at Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Ltd. for southern China operation who has been appointed by the court as ATV manager, said the television station may face liquidation if a “white knight” does not show up by Jan. 26.
He said chances are slim for any capital injection from the existing shareholders.
Most of the potential suitors for the broadcaster inquired about the possibility of ATV being able to renew its broadcast license, its debt situation and conflicts between its shareholders, Lai said.
The tender for the sale of a 10.75 percent stake in ATV held by Wong Ben-koon closes at 5 p.m. Monday.
Yip, the senior vice president, revealed on Tuesday that a total of six companies have registered interest in buying the broadcaster and signed non-disclosure agreements.
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