THE BOSSES of Edinburgh architecture firm RMJM have been found guilty in a Hong Kong court of failing to pay wages to staff.
Peter Morrison and Declan Thompson have been fined £7,900 each by Hong Kong’s Eastern Magistrates’ Court for offences which included failing to honour “termination payments” and not settling previous awards by the Labour Tribunal.
They will also be forced to pay out £125,000 in outstanding payments and tribunal awards to the employees.
A battle between employees and former employees of the architecture firm, which was behind the design of the Falkirk Wheel and also worked on the Scottish Parliament building, has been raging for more than four years, since principal architect Catherine Siu became the first of a group of employees of the Edinburgh-headquartered firm to lodge an official complaint with the Hong Kong labour department over unpaid salaries.
According to industry magazine Architects Journal, the individual prosecutions were launched by the Hong Kong labour department following legal action by former staff from RMJM’s Hong Kong studio, who had sought £236,000 in unpaid wages from the troubled company.
According to a statement by the Hong Kong government, the two directors were convicted for their “consent, connivance or neglect in the wage offences and defaulting on payment of the Labour Tribunal award”.
A spokesman for the labour department said the the judgment would “disseminate a strong message to all company directors and responsible persons that they have to ensure that wages are paid to employees in accordance with the employment ordinance and that an award is paid according to the terms of the award issued by the labour tribunal or the minor employment claims adjudication board.”
Former marketing director for RMJM Hong Kong, Liliana Silva, who gave evidence at the trial and claims she is still owed £26,873 in unpaid wages by the company, said: “[I’m glad] that the court found the directors guilty. However, the sentence and fine don’t reflect the seriousness of the crimes they commited nor retribute the damage done to over 30 employees.”
Peter Morrison, who took over as chief executive of the company in 2005, said he did not plan to appeal the judgment. He said: “This situation arose as a consequence of the impact of the global recession, which the company sought to weather in the best interest of all stakeholders, including employees, rather than simply allowing the company to fold, leaving the workforce without jobs.
“We have previously made clear to the department of labour our intention to pay outstanding salaries and arrangements are being made to pay the penalties.”