Terms for contract workers improved

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 December, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 December, 2000, 12:00am

Government employees on non-civil-service contract terms will have more holidays and better-paid sick leave after a revamp of a much-criticised policy, lawmakers were told yesterday.

Under the proposal, their annual leave will double to 14 days, while pay for sick leave will rise from two-thirds to fourth-fifths of normal wages.

The workers are currently only entitled to the minimum labour requirements provided under the Employment Ordinance. Under present rules, non-civil-service contract staff are paid according to the bottom of the applicable government pay scale. The revamp would allow department heads to pay them up to the middle point of the scale.

Announcing the proposals yesterday, Secretary for Civil Service Joseph Wong Wing-ping denied having been 'mean' to this group of staff, which numbers around 7,500. 'We don't have a policy to treat them harshly. We have made improvements,' Mr Wong told the Legco public service panel.

But Lee Cheuk-yan of the Confederation of Trade Unions said some departments, including Leisure and Cultural Services, had slashed monthly salaries from $21,000 to $16,000 upon contract renewal.

'This is not real improvement. You only empower the departments with the flexibility to treat staff harshly,' Mr Lee said.

Mr Wong refused to give an undertaking to ensure pay would be no less favourable when staff contracts were renewed. He was adamant that adjusting wages according to market conditions was the right step. He also shrugged off charges that cost-cutting targets of five per cent by 2003 had prompted wage cuts.

Cheung Man-kwong of the Democratic Party challenged the Government's decision to withhold part of the end-of-contract gratuity for Mandatory Provident Fund contributions. He said some contract staff were only entitled to a five per cent gratuity but the Government would withhold it to pay their MPF.

However, officials said figures showed that only 19 non-civil-service contract staff earning less than $12,000 a month had a gratuity of 10 per cent or less.