SCMP Saturday, September 29, 2001
Civil service jobs safe, union leader told
MAY SIN-MI HON and AMBROSE LEUNG
A union leader said he had been assured by a senior official there would be no more civil service job cuts until the current round of redundancies was finalised.
Leung Chau-ting, chairman of the Federation of Civil Service Unions, said Secretary for Civil Service Joseph Wong Wing-ping gave him the assurance during a meeting yesterday.
Mr Leung said Mr Wong told him the Government would stick to its plan to cut 5,000 positions to trim the number of civil service jobs to 181,000 by 2003, as announced in the March Budget speech.
The cuts would be made through voluntary retirements and as a result of corporatising the Housing Department's maintenance work and estate management.
Speaking after the meeting, Mr Leung said Mr Wong said a "few thousand" staff would accept voluntary retirement. "He [Mr Wong] said there would not be a second phase of the scheme before those approved to leave had left."
Mr Wong also said the voluntary retirement scheme would be reviewed next year, Mr Leung said. He said he was also told that no other departments would undertake privatisation, apart from the Lands Department's Survey and Mapping Office.
Mr Wong has also said he does not agree with suggested pay cuts for civil servants, saying it would not help to revive the economy. Mr Leung said the secretary's position on pay cuts could help stabilise morale in the civil service.
Cecilia So Chui-kuen, president of the Hong Kong Chinese Civil Servants' Association, said the Government should consult civil servants before making any pay-related decisions.
Meanwhile, a union leader has called on bosses to think twice before deciding to lay off staff. Cheng Yiu-tong, president of the Federation of Trade Unions, also warned it would look "extremely bad" if the Government started cutting civil servants' pay.
"Companies should consult with employees on how to go through bad times together, rather than sacking them. It is not acceptable for bosses to make unilateral decisions," he said.
"They should never sack people because the economy is bad. All have their social responsibilities."