Baptist U staff insist on review of pay deal

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 18 February, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 18 February, 2006, 12:00am

Union survey shows 65pc felt they were coerced into signing revised contracts

Staff are demanding Baptist University seeks their renewed consent to a performance-based pay system after a survey showed many felt pressurised to sign.

The survey of 150 staff by the HKBU Faculty and Staff Union found 65 per cent felt they were 'persuaded, pressurised or any other reasons' to yield to it against their will and 76 per cent felt they were 'tricked' into believing it was a free choice. In light of the survey, the union is demanding the university re-runs the exercise.

Legco's education panel, at a special meeting last month, also called for the exercise to be re-run and two administrators who were sacked for refusing to sign be reinstated. The two are applying to the Labour Tribunal on Thursday claiming unreasonable dismissal.

Six academics threatened with termination of contract after they refused to consent were given a reprieve last month but are now being asked again to sign up to one of the conditions.

They have been told their existing contracts can be administered under the new pay and reward system if they agree to a change in superannuation and gratuity terms. All six have been invited to meet with administrators.

To Yiu-ming, chairman of the HKBU Faculty and Staff Union and one of the six, said: 'The union is demanding the university re-run the consent exercise for all staff. And as the union leader, I would ask for the reinstatement of the two administrative staff who have been sacked before I am prepared to sign up to the superannuation terms.'

Dr Stephen Palmquist, associate professor of religion and philosophy, said: 'I will agree to have my superannuation cut when the university administration offers those who felt coerced a second chance to accept or reject.

'A significant minority of people have told me they felt coerced to sign. Change of contract under coercion is not a legal change of contract.'

Jenny Wong Wing-yin, one of the two sacked administrators, said at a students' union forum on Wednesday that many university employees had been forced to agree to changes in their contracts.

'We weren't told what the consequences of not accepting the changes would be,' she said. 'We lived in white terror, not knowing what would happen the next day.'

But Andy Lee Shiu-chuen, the university's vice-president (administration), denied staff had been coerced. 'We openly said to the staff: 'We won't force you to sign.' We had no authority to do that,' he said. 'To have a re-run of the consent exercise is not a feasible proposition.'

The new system was already in place and the university could not go back to staff and ask them to give their consent again.

The staff union has also accused the university of abusing public funds by awarding 'excessive' annual bonuses to high-ranking staff. It called on Baptist University to give an immediate public account for the bonuses, which it termed 'fat on top, thin below'.