Civil servants' morale in dramatic fall since handover

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 June, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 30 June, 2003, 12:00am

Civil service morale has plunged since the handover, with the number of staff describing themselves as working in high spirits dropping from 64 per cent in 1997 to only 1 per cent this month, according to a trade union survey.

More than one quarter of the staff warned that they would resort to industrial action if the government sacked civil servants to ease the budget deficit. Some said they would take the government to court, the survey by the Confederation of Trade Unions found.

Of the 695 civil servants surveyed this month, only 1 per cent described morale as high or very high - in stark contrast to the pre-handover level of 64 per cent.

Those who found morale bad or very bad had rocketed from 4 per cent before July 1997 to 86 per cent. Staff who described morale as so-so had dropped from 32 per cent to 13 per cent over the past six years.

Staff relations were soured after the government took the unprecedented step of cutting salaries last year. Morale was further hit after officials refused to renew promises of no compulsory layoffs amid growing pressure to ease the budget deficit.

The survey found that 96 per cent of the respondents snubbed the voluntary retirement scheme to help trim government spending.

Most said they stayed because the compensation package was unattractive and that it was difficult to find jobs elsewhere.

Asked what they would do if the government insisted on compulsory layoffs, 27 per cent said work-to-rule industrial action would be taken. A further 56 per cent demanded that unions negotiate with the management.

Those who said they would sue or openly censure the government accounted for 18 and 31 per cent respectively. Staff were able to choose more than one answer.

Respondents who described the government as a model employer fell from 50 per cent in 1997 to 5 per cent this month. Those who say the opposite surged from 22 per cent to 83 per cent. A total of 12 per cent had no opinion, compared with 28 per cent before the handover.

The trade union said the pay cut had strained staff relations and undermined morale. It urged the government not to impose another pay cut, as well as halt privatisation and renew promises of no layoffs.