Payouts to aviation staff 'grounded'
By RHONDA LAM WAN
UNCERTAINTY over the recruitment of staff for the new airport emerged yesterday after legislators rejected a government application for $20 million.
The funding was for ex-gratia payments for Civil Aviation Department staff who will be made redundant when Kai Tak - and the department - closes. It was voted down by 28 to 14 in Legco's Finance Committee.
The 133 staff can join the Airport Authority, which will run Chek Lap Kok, but it was proposed they get six months' pay if they do.
Principal Assistant Secretary for Civil Service David Lau Cheuk-yin said department morale would be damaged ahead of the authority's offer next week of employment terms.
Deputy Secretary for Economic Services Maria Kwan Sik-ning declined to say whether the payments would now be cancelled, but said she was 'a bit disappointed' by the decision.
Legislators said the payments were unnecessary because all staff could join the authority on comparative remuneration to their existing packages.
'I cannot see any loss. They still get jobs. Why are they entitled to the ex-gratia payment?' Ip Kwok-him said.
Mr Lau said it was a usual practice to give ex-gratia payments to staff who had to leave when their departments were dissolved.
He cited staff from the Music Office, the Cross Harbour Tunnel and the Securities and Futures commissions.
Ms Kwan said: 'Though their remuneration is comparative to their government counterparts, they may risk a lot of uncertainties working in a business organisation.' Democrat Cheung Man-kwong argued the case of the aviation department staff was different from the other cases.
'Staff of the Music Office and the Cross Harbour Tunnel were not guaranteed a post when they were disbanded,' he said.