'Double standards' for ex-gratia pay
LEGISLATORS accused the Government of adopting double standards in deciding compensation for civil servants whose departments close.
The criticism came as the Finance Committee approved funding of $19.2 million for the Civil Aviation Department to compensate 133 permanent and pensionable staff of the airport management division.
The division will be abolished when Kai Tak airport closes in April 1998.
Anthony Cheung Bing-leung asked why the Government was giving ex-gratia payments of six times an officer's final monthly salary, even though the staff will be re-employed by the Airport Authority.
'It is unreasonable to compensate staff when no loss will be incurred,' Mr Cheung said, adding the arrangement had not been applied before.
'When staff of the Hospital Department were transferred to the Hospital Authority, they were not given any compensation,' he said.
He asked whether the Government was applying a double standard in formulating policy.
Deputy Secretary for the Civil Service Mike Stone said the arrangement was necessary for a smooth transition and to boost confidence. But he agreed to look at the matter again.
'I am happy to discuss the issue with legislators later in panel meetings,' Mr Stone said.
A request for $298 million to employ a management consultancy for Phase Four of the new airport was endorsed by legislators despite being rejected last month.
But they asked whether the other large projects, for example the Western Corridor Railway, could also benefit from the four-year consultancy.
'Do we need to spend another big amount to employ consultants in the future?' asked Cheung Man-kwong.
The director of the New Airport Projects Co-ordination Office, Billy Lam Chung-lun, said recruiting the consultants would definitely be beneficial.
'It will be helpful, but it doesn't mean that we won't need other experts in the future,' he said.