SCMP Thursday, September 27, 2001

Higher fees 'may keep out 10,000'


Up to 10,000 people may not be able to afford courses under a government-sponsored job retraining programme when fees are raised on Monday, union leaders said yesterday.
Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions spokeswoman Koo Yuen-ting said a 50 per cent rise in fees for night and half-day classes under the Employees Retraining Board (ERB) scheme meant many potential students would be turned away.
The confederation yesterday presented 1,400 signatures from its members to the ERB offices in Tsim Sha Tsui, calling for cancellation of the fee increase and for low-income students to be allowed to claim more fee exemptions each year. Currently, a board student earning less than $6,333 a month can apply for fee exemption twice a year.
"Most of those affected earn low wages - some work two jobs to make ends meet," said Ms Koo, adding that the 10,000 figure was an estimate based on the number of confederation members who took the board's classes last year.
When the fees take effect on Monday, a student on a $200 computer course will pay $300.
ERB chairman Tam Yiu-chung said the new fees would help raise $10 million, which would be used to set up more free job retraining classes.