SCMP Saturday, September 9, 2000

Civil servants hail reform talks with Tung and Anson


Unionists aggrieved by civil service reform spoke of a new era of co-operation yesterday after an unprecedented meeting with the Chief Executive and Chief Secretary for Administration.
But colleagues not invited to the meeting remained critical of the Government and warned of bitter disputes.
Tung Chee-hwa, Anson Chan Fang On-sang and Secretary for Civil Service Joseph Wong Wing-ping held 90 minutes of talks with representatives from the four consultative councils and a disciplinary forces union. Mrs Chan reportedly pledged to remind bureau and department chiefs at future meetings how to improve communication and emphasise the importance of forging partnerships with the staff side.
In a statement, Mr Tung said he would strengthen communication to maintain civil service morale. "The Government highly values communication with the staff side. All members of the Hong Kong civil service, whether they are in management, supervisory or frontline positions, have the same mission of serving the Hong Kong community. The Government certainly agrees that the management and the staff side are partners in realising this mission."
He praised staff for coping with the economic adjustment brought about by the financial crisis and growing expectations from the public. "We will continue to implement the approved reform initiatives with care and sensitivity and we will consult staff in the process," he added.
Stephen Wong Wai-hung, of the Government Disciplined Services General Union, one of the critics of reform, said he was impressed by Mr Tung's and Mrs Chan's sincerity in improving staff relations. "We share the same views that civil service morale cannot be further undermined at this stage. I'm confident that with the commitment of Mr Tung, Mrs Chan and the Civil Service Bureau, we will be able to turn over a new chapter," he said.
But Federation of Civil Service Unions chairman Leung Chau-ting, who was not present at the talks, doubted whether tensions could be eased simply by holding a brief meeting. He challenged Mr Tung to provide morale-lifting measures in his Policy Address next month.
"The best way to prove his sincerity is to drop or review the controversial three-plus-three proposal immediately," Mr Leung said. He was referring to the replacement of pensionable appointments by a three-year probation term plus three-year contract before staff qualified for permanent appointment.
He warned of more demonstrations, after thousands of civil servants took to the streets over the past year to protest against the package of reforms in staff management and appointment.
Leung Chi-chiu, of the Senior Civil Service Council, said he hoped the management would treat the staff side as working partners.