Legislation 'no basis for future pay cuts'

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 June, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 June, 2002, 12:00am

Legislation to enforce a civil service pay cut was a one-off measure and would not provide the legal basis for future cuts, a senior official said yesterday.

Ian Wingfield, Law Officer (Civil Law), gave the reassurance following concerns that the bill could supercede common law and open the way for employers unilaterally to alter the contract terms of their employees.

Unionist legislator Lee Cheuk-yan told the bills committee the legislation could be used for other changes to terms of employment for civil servants. 'You are now modifying the contracts and it would mean the change is not one-off. The bill will be applicable for future changes,' he said.

But Mr Wingfield said the bill - to provide for a one-off pay cut of between 1.58 per cent and 4.42 per cent for 180,000 civil servants - would not cover future adjustments.

'No, the purpose of the bill and the purpose of this clause is limited to the express adjustments set out in the bill. It has no other effect. It doesn't affect future pay adjustments at all,' he said.

But legislators criticised the Government for providing misleading information after Legco legal adviser Jimmy Ma Yiu-tim provided supplementary details. He said the decision of a pay cut in Canada was reached by collective bargaining between staff and the Government.

Non-affiliated legislator Audrey Eu Yuet-mee, SC, said: 'I regret that the Government has not delivered [on] its responsibility to provide comprehensive information.'

But Mr Wingfield rejected it, saying the two examples were not the basis of the legislation.

Meanwhile, Liu Kit-ming, chairman of the Local Inspectors Association, called for Civil Service Secretary Joseph Wong Wing-ping to step down if the pay-cut bill was not passed.

'It would reflect the bill lacks support from legislators and unions. He should step down to set an example [to take responsibility] under the ministerial system,' he said.