SCMP Saturday, May 12, 2001

Employers, lawmakers dispute pay rise survey


Employer groups and pro-business legislators yesterday challenged a government survey saying companies had awarded three to six per cent pay increases in the past year.
Liberal Party leader James Tien Pei-chun, who represents the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce in the Legislative Council, said he was surprised by the Pay Trend Survey released by the Government yesterday.
The survey, which will form the basis for a civil service pay adjustment this year, showed private sector pay had risen by 2.95 to 6.15 per cent in the past year.
Mr Tien said he had expected a smaller increase and a narrower gap. "I feel surprised because commercial sectors mostly feel that the business environment is not very good," he said.
He added civil service pay rises should be lower than those in the private sector and rejected claims that the Government should close the gap by awarding higher rises to junior staff.
Patrick Maule, spokesman for the Hong Kong Institute of Human Resource Management, said: "I am really surprised. I don't think the real situation would back the [Government's] data."
The institute's survey of 102 prominent employers in March found an average pay increase of two to three per cent.
Mr Maule said also that as bonuses were not a permanent part of the basic salary for the private sector, they should not be included in calculating pay rises for civil servants. "It would be extremely dangerous and is a false logic in itself," he said.
Mr Maule agreed in general that civil servants should be given a pay rise, and warned against widening the wage increase gap between senior officials and the rank-and-file.
James Ng Chi-ming, chairman of the Employers' Federation of Hong Kong, said its own survey has found only a 2.5 per cent pay rise. "The civil service pay system, with its emphasis on continuity and fixed increments, has yet to take account of the performance of individuals," he said. "I very much hope and expect the Government will take a reasonable view when deciding the general increase for civil servants this year, and take the interests of the community as a whole into account when deciding if one-off performance-related bonuses should be added permanently to civil service pay."
Independent legislator David Li Kwok-po, who represents the banking sector, said he would support a pay adjustment below 6.5 per cent. He also called for a review to ensure Government pay would be attractive.
He said salaries of senior civil servants were not that high when compared with the private sector.
Unionist legislator Lee Cheuk-yan said the Government should take the lead in stimulating private sector pay by awarding six per cent across the board.