Concerns raised over Vitasoy staff background checks

A union group on Monday expressed concern over reports that beverage maker Vitasoy is asking its staff to declare any links they and their relatives have with various organisations.

Vitasoy has reportedly asked its workers to sign an agreement to allow the company to collect their personal information as well as that of their family members, including any membership of associations or affiliation with different organisations.

According to the reports, the manufacturer also stated that it might not be able to pay workers if they decline to submit this information, and that such data would be handed over to law enforcement departments if required.

In response, Confederation of Trade Unions’ chief executive Mung Siu-tat said it is rare for companies to require information that is irrelevant to a person’s job.

“It’s not just collecting the staff members’ information, but also their families’. It makes people question if the practice has violated the privacy ordinance because it’d be collecting excessive data,” he told an RTHK programme.

Mung said he was not convinced by Vitasoy’s explanation that it was merely digitalising its human resources system.

“Whether it’s for salary payment or for signing them up for medical plans, it should already have got sufficient information to do so,” he said.

“It’s not just updating [its system], it has changed the scope of the personal data it collects. It’s collecting more private information that is irrelevant to the employment.”

Mung said the reported move could be linked to an incident in July involving a Vitasoy worker who killed himself after stabbing a policeman.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data said it would not comment on individual cases but would keep an eye on the matter.

In response to an RTHK’s inquiry, Vitasoy, for its part, maintained that the move was part of an upgrade to a new digital system.

The company said it is seeking staff members’ authorisation to migrate general personal information, including their curriculum vitae and professional membership as well as the contact information of their relatives for emergency and group medical insurance. It added all related documents have been reviewed and revised by external legal counsel to ensure compliance.

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Last updated: 2021-08-30 HKT 15:28