SCMP Saturday, May 12, 2001

Civil servants in line for 2-5pc rise


After a two-year freeze, civil servants are in line for a pay rise of between two and five per cent, following the Government's survey of private-sector salaries.
The news sparked immediate discontent from lower-ranking staff, who fear the gap between their pay and that of senior colleagues may widen.
The Pay Trend Survey showed rises in 76 companies for the year to April 2 were 6.15 per cent for top-ranking staff, 3.55 per cent for middle-ranking and 2.95 per cent for lower.
After deducting the seniority-based annual increment, the net pay rise indicators would be 4.99 per cent, 2.38 per cent and 1.97 per cent respectively.
If the Government sticks to the indicators, the monthly salary of Chief Secretary for Administration Donald Tsang Yam-kuen would rise by $10,810 to $227,460. Financial Secretary Antony Leung Kam-chung would see an increase of $10,219 to $215,019.
Any pay rise for lower-ranking staff has in recent practice been set at the same level as middle-ranking staff, notwithstanding the survey findings. If that were done again, junior staff on a monthly salary of $10,000 would receive a rise of only $238.
The indicators will form a basis for the Civil Service Bureau's pay rise recommendations later this year. Staff unions were briefed yesterday on the survey, which was conducted by the Commission of Civil Service Salaries and Conditions of Service. Unions must either accept the results on Wednesday or submit their own proposals next Saturday.
Last year, the Government spent $50.8 billion on staff pay. A one per cent increment would cost taxpayers an extra $500 million.
A Civil Service Bureau spokeswoman said the Government would propose the pay adjustment based on a number of factors, including the cost of living, state of the economy, government budgetary restrictions, staff morale and staff demands.
The Executive Council will decide on a preliminary proposal on May 29. Staff unions will then be given a second chance to voice their views and Exco will make a final decision on June 19. The proposal will be submitted to Legco's Finance Committee for endorsement on July 6. The pay will be backdated to April.
Senior staff unions suggested they would accept the survey, but unions for junior staff were not satisfied.
Lung Wing-fat, staff-side chairman of the Model Scale One Staff Consultative Council, which represents 18,000 lower-ranking staff, said the group would be unhappy if the Government adhered strictly to the survey results.
He said the gap between the upper and lower bands would widen and hoped instead the increment for the lower band would be at least five per cent.
Kwok Chi-tak, senior vice-chairman of the Senior Non-expatriate Officers' Association, said the survey figures were in line with other private-sector surveys.
Li Kwai-yin, deputy secretary-general of the Chinese Civil Servants' Association, said: "Pay rises would help boost morale. Civil servants would increase consumption and this would help boost the economy."
She said the higher pay indicated in the private sector's upper band could be due to an increase in the number of information technology companies included in the survey.
The Financial Secretary said civil servants should try to understand the situation of staff in the private sector.
"The pay of some private-sector employees is being frozen or even cut. Civil servants should know some employees are worse off than they are. Civil service morale should not be linked only to pay rises but take in the economic situation," he said.
After the financial turmoil, indicators suggested a pay cut but most civil servants' salaries have only been frozen for the past two years to maintain morale. However, pay at or above D3 level ($127,900) has been unchanged for three years.