Dozens of employees working for California Fitness, mYoga and Leap fitness centers, which suspended their operations Tuesday due to financial woes, staged a protest Tuesday demanding their unpaid wages.
Holding placards that accused JV Fitness, which operates the fitness centers, of leaving them in the lurch, the employees marched from Lockhart Road Playground to police headquarters in Wan Chai where they submitted a petition to seek police intervention.
The company failed to give advance notice before shutting the operations, the employees said, reporting the matter as a fraud case.
Some protesters went to the Labour Department’s Wan Chai office to seek its help, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported.
An employee who claimed that he wasn’t paid his June salary was quoted as saying that their pay cheques have been irregular since March.
When questioned, the management was said to have informed the staff that the delays were due to accounting-related issues.
Tuesday’s protest came after JV Fitness announced that it was shutting all its 12 centers in the city immediately until further notice, catching many of its employees and members off guard.
As of now, the company hasn’t made it clear when the employees will be paid or if the gym chain’s members will get refunds on their prepaid membership fees.
JV Fitness has said that its accounts have been frozen as the High Court is scheduled to hear a petition on Aug. 31 for liquidation of the firm.
The petition was launched by a shareholder.
Tang Ka-piu, a lawmaker from the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, said the employees felt cheated as JV Fitness had asked them to keep soliciting members even though the company was in financial distress.
He also said that there were suspicions that the fitness chain operator had moved funds somewhere else.
The lawmaker, who is trying to help the employees, called on major shareholders of JV Fitness to give a proper explanation on the matters related to the troubled firm.
According to Tang, the amount of wages that JV Fitness owes in arrears is estimated to be at least HK$10 million (US$1.28 million).
More than 300 of the firm’s 500 employees are said to be workout trainers, whose monthly pay is about HK$30,000.
On top of that, the company faces compensation claims from its 100,000 members, who had paid HK$10,000 each on average as membership fee, bringing the total amount involved in potential claims to more than HK$1 billion.
Some California Fitness members have approached the police with their grievances.
The Consumer Council, meanwhile, said it has received 141 complaints against JV Fitness in a week as of Monday, the most ever in the city regarding a single incident of business suspension.
The amount involved in the cases totals HK$4 million.
Following the closure of California Fitness, some competitors are trying to lure the rival’s members by launching special offers.
[Chinese version 中文版]
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