Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Fishing Ban 休漁的故事


兩個月的南海休漁期會於八月一日結束。在這兩個月間,除刺網、延繩釣、手釣及籠捕外,其他捕魚作業模式一律禁止在南海中國水域使用。香港漁船,尤其是大部份要外出至南中國海沿岸捕魚的漁船,在休漁期間都要停業。

在南區的香港仔避風塘可以看到南海休漁期對香港漁業的影響。這一個地點本來已經是遊客常到的旅遊點,有很多舢舨接載遊客在避風塘內穿梭參觀漁港和漁船。在休漁期間,漁船都回港停泊,熱鬧情況只有農曆新年和天后誕才可以相比。似乎旅遊協會可以將南海休漁期包裝為旅遊項目,在國外宣傳,邀請外國遊客在休漁期間組團來港參觀。

漁護署估計全港約有一千四百艘漁船受休漁措施影響。在休漁期間,一排排的遠洋漁船隊都要停泊在避風塘內。這幾隊整齊的船隊可能屬於同一間漁業公司;因要休業而致無所事事。




在休漁期內,漁民可以修護船隻。漁護署在此期間會為漁民安排一些訓練課程,又有獎學金資助漁民前往上海水產大學修讀漁業培訓課程。




當漁船密集地停泊在一起時,會產生衛生問題,而火災和罪案發生的機會亦大增。海事處、警務處和消防處在這期間都很忙碌,要於避風塘內實施特別泊船安排和加強巡邏。




其實實施休漁期,可以保育漁業資源,促進漁業持續發展。中國農業部說實施南海休漁,可以有效存護產卵群體和幼魚資源,提高漁業資源密度而使漁獲量明顯增加, 漁獲組成變得多樣化;而每年休漁後都出現魚類大量群集現象,南海漁業資源得到恢復增長。實行休漁制度,不但減輕了捕撈强度,更節省了生產成本,使漁業經濟效益好轉。作業結構的調整,亦使漁業的可持續性提高。

漁民因為切身的利益,想法並不一樣。幾年前當休漁期開始實施時,漁民因有經濟損失而要求香港政府賠償。但是休漁措施是中國政策,香港漁民因為不能到中國水域捕魚而要求香港政府負責在道理上說不通。但漁護署並沒有逃避責任;她主動協助漁民於每年籌劃作業時要考慮休漁期帶來的影響,又透過魚類統營處貸款基金提供每首船數萬元的低息貸款,協助漁民渡過休漁期。

但漁民在休漁期間當然不甘寂寞。既然不可到南中國海捕魚,就不如在香港水域捕魚;這首漁船就在離住宅區很近的地點下網。我懷疑這些漁獲是否適宜食用。




除了捕魚,漁民仍有其他謀生方法。這位漁民駕著小船,拖著幾首裝上強光燈的小艇,是準備在夜間捕捉墨魚。




南丫島的南方海面,是捕墨魚的其中一個好地方。在晚上小船開了強光燈,墨魚自然就會游上來。




不過不是所有漁民都守規矩的。我看見這兩首漁船在航道上忽然靠近接觸幾分鐘交換物件,可能是避過魚類批發市場交易的魚產,或是其他避稅的貨物。




違法的交易經常會被警察干涉。即使在繁忙的航道上亦常常見到水警輪檢查來往的漁船。




如果警方未能完全堵截非法活動就有可能要勞煩海軍出動潛水艇。

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

M v SJ

M v SJ is a very important case in HRM. I think it should be summarized and put in the HRM bible so that all managers could be aware of the case and its implications. It is a scenario which many managers would encounter in their daily work. The fact that it is brought to court and put under the judicial microscope has given the case a fresh perspective. The facts, actions and reactions, arguments, legal views, and legal precedents are collected and analyzed in great details.

This case was heard in the District Court. The judgment was handed down on 16 July 2007. Those interested may wish to read the judgment. But please be warned that it is a 130-page document with 292 paragraphs, sort of like a book. The judge wrote it like a story. You would be reading the scenarios, conversations, appraisal reports, expert opinion on work stress, plus the legal opinion on which evidence was acceptable or unacceptable.

Mickey (a fictitious name) was an AO. He was posted to HAB to work under John Wan, and then to TB under Patrick Ho. His performance was grossly unsatisfactory, receiving E and D gradings respectively. CSB offered counsel as grade management, with Gary Poon and Tong Cheng as the career managers responsible for junior AO. Mickey eventually resigned, upon suggestion that his service would be terminated otherwise.

This common HRM case took a turn when Mickey sued the government (Secretary for Justice) for being discriminated owing to his psychiatric illness: GAD - General Anxiety Disorder. He claimed that his resignation was a result of discriminatory and harassing conducts of the four AO involved, and claimed for damages of $20 million. He failed.

I do not wish to repeat what the judge said. But I can assure you that it is interesting and enlightening. You can read it yourself. I also think that in the hand of another judge or another counsel, the result could be the other way round. So much is my impression on how justice is practiced. There are however some points which are amusing that I highlight below.

Several psychiatrists were engaged by Mickey and SJ as expert witnesses on Mickey's health conditions. As usual, experts explained the conditions with different theories and interpretations. The judge rightly pointed out that none of them used the term mental disorder. One expert said that Mickey has obsessive compulsive personality traits, which include tendency towards perfectionism, excessive suppression of emotion, obsession with details and excessive devotion to work. The judge considered them not disabilities by themselves but only a reflection of Mickey’s personality. We frequently saw such personality in many conscientious officers and high flyers; surely they were not suffering from mental disorder.

Another point of interest is when did Mickey get the alleged disorder. This led to the argument whether he was discriminated against because of a prevailing disability or the disorder was a result of his performance at work. Dr. Lieh-Mak gave a clever explanation that his anxiety probably existed as a personality many years ago but its severity crossed the threshold of becoming a disorder when he worked as an AO.

A term "constructive dismissal" was created in the allegation. It was pleaded that CSB constructively dismissed Mickey by causing him to tender his resignation in response to “harassment and intimidation”, thereby constituting direct discrimination of Mickey. I am pleased to say that I did not constructively dismiss anyone by asking anyone to resign. I did terminate a few officers for incompetence during probation, with compensation of one-month salary in lieu. Come to think of it, many resigned to seek greener pasture, but some did so as they could not cope. All of the latter could then be said to have been constructively dismissed.

Reading Mickey's misfortune, I note two points that may be used as indicators on reflecting our own situation. The first one is that, when the boss lost faith in you, your work portfolio could be reduced. Mickey realized that and alleged that it was discrimination and an attempt to humiliate and harass. So less work is actually a dangerous sign. The other one is inefficient subordinate support. Mickey claimed that his secretary was inefficient and he sought help from the secretary of his boss, which made things even worse for him. You just cannot run away from inefficient subordinates. Motivating subordinates is an essential task for a manager. You can either motivate your subordinates to work more efficiently, or if unsuccessful, take disciplinary or performance management actions.

On work stress related anxiety disorder, I quote a few sentences in the concluding remarks of the judgment for us to be aware of.
"291. In the present case, one of the reasons why an employer may be difficult to find out whether an individual employee is suffering from any kind of psychiatric or psychological disorder is that the symptoms of such disability may just be found in any other persons who happens to work under stress. This is certainly not a healthy phenomenon. Although I do not accept Professor Lieh-Mak’s evidence in its entirety, I must agree with her observation that mental health of employees in working environment is a very much neglected issue in Hong Kong. Undoubtedly, Hong Kong is a very competitive society, and so employees inevitably have to bear with various degrees of stress arising from work. However, stress can also affect the health of individuals in various ways..."