Most NETs back set allowance to meet living costs

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 October, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 October, 2005, 12:00am

Rental or cost of living benchmark options gain minority votes in poll

More than two thirds of native English-speaking teachers who joined an internet poll have voted for their special allowance to be restored to at least $13,000 instead of other options being considered.

NETs were asked to choose between three options for reviewing their special allowance in a consultation on the e-group Allnets agreed between the Education and Manpower Bureau and the Native English Speaking Teachers' Association (Nesta) last month.

The allowance, which is meant to reflect the higher housing costs and other additional costs faced by expatriates, was cut from $13,000 to $10,500 for half of all NETs a year ago and for the rest last month.

But education chiefs were forced to review the decision after legislators told them in July to improve the NETs' pay package to stem a 'crisis of recruitment' in the scheme.

The first option was for the allowance to be tied to the rental and valuation index (RVI), the second was to use the consumer price index (CPI) and the third was for it to be set at a flat rate of at least $13,000.

The three options were agreed between education chiefs and a Nesta delegation in recent talks.

Andrea Mackenzie, co-ordinator of Nesta's special allowance and gratuity committee, said 67 per cent of the 335 NETs in the poll had voted for the $13,000 flat rate, 21 per cent favoured using the CPI and 11 per cent backed use of the RVI.

Most of the NETs voting for the flat rate had also indicated in comments that they wanted at least $13,000 a month, whether or not it was tied to a review mechanism. A further majority had commented that if the EMB refused a flat rate, they would prefer the CPI rather than the RVI were used to review it.

'What this survey shows is that NETs are absolutely disappointed with the offers to date,' said Ms Mackenzie. 'They will not be enough to keep well-qualified, educated and talented NETs in Hong Kong.

'These are world-class teachers and like other international teachers in Hong Kong, they deserve a proper remuneration for their work and to cover the cost of relocation.'

Ms Mackenzie added that the group was disappointed that the EMB was keeping proposals for changing the special allowance drawn up in response to the survey under wraps until they had been approved by Permanent Secretary for Education Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun next Wednesday.

'We don't want to have to make any snap decisions about any surprises that come to light in their package,' she said.

Perry Bayer, the group's spokesman, said he was 'thrilled' at the response rate of more than 60 per cent of Allnets subscribers to the poll.

'This was a successful experiment in democracy in action,' he said. 'They gave a very clear voting pattern, which gives us a clear negotiating position.'

Sam Hui Chark-shum, assistant secretary for education and manpower in charge of the NET scheme, said: 'We have fixed a meeting with the Nesta committee on Wednesday and we will be putting proposals to them at that meeting. Proposals are expected to go to Legco this month.'