2,300 police voice grievances over pay
Joshua But and Peter So
About 2,300 police officers yesterday voiced their discontent over 'unfair' pay during a high-profile meeting with top officials after last week calling off a controversial protest march.
While the 21/2-hour gathering failed to obtain further undertakings from the government, tension over the pay dispute has seemingly eased, as Commissioner for Police Tang King-shing renewed pledges to help his staff press their demands.
But union representatives said they were disappointed that the security and civil service chiefs only sent their representatives to attend the meeting.
The meeting followed a U-turn by police unions on Thursday to put off a planned march after Mr Tang pledged to champion the staff's pay campaign.
Emotions ran high as senior police management and lawmakers, including former security chief Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee and Priscilla Leung Mei-fun, showed their support on stage. The officers were encouraged by an undertaking from Barry Cheung Chun-yuen, chairman of the Standing Committee on Disciplined Services Salaries and Conditions of Service, that he would meet their representatives to fine-tune the committee's recommendations on the grade structure review and raise them with the Civil Service Bureau. The review recommended pay rises.
Executive councillors Leung Chun-ying and Cheng Yiu-tong also attended the meeting. Both said the government should consider the police unions' case carefully.
A Civil Service Bureau spokesman said they would continue to communicate with police through the established mechanism. 'We have been proactively following up the submission of the grade structure review reports,' he said.
Junior Police Officers' Association chairman Chung Kam-wa expressed disappointment at the absence of Secretary for Security Ambrose Lee Siu-kwong and Secretary for Civil Service Denise Yue Chung-yee.
But Mr Chung said the meeting had produced a better outcome than a protest, with 'a more accurate and positive message' about the dispute being brought to the public and the administration. Tony Liu Kit-ming, chairman of the Police Inspectors' Association, said the public was more sensitive over police taking to the streets and admitted this might have had a negative effect on the image of the force.
Mr Chung said as the police commissioner had pledged to step in and fight for them, they would have confidence in him. 'We hope the details can be fixed and that the report can be implemented as soon as it is endorsed by Exco,' he said.
In his address, Mr Tang said it had been 'worthwhile' to cut short his overseas trip as he was 'the one to shoulder responsibility'.
'We must not take radical actions,' he told his colleagues. 'I am pleased that so far our officers are conducting themselves in a very rational manner in pressing their fair and reasonable demands.'
City University political analyst James Sung Lap-kung said the row had already affected the government's authority. 'The chief executive and other senior officials have praised the police's contributions in recent days. It shows the administration and central government are getting anxious about the row,' he said.
Ivan Choy Chi-keung, a political scientist at Chinese University, said the row was unlikely to be settled soon, given police requests for a separate pay scale. He said the government would face a dilemma over the issue. 'If the police had its own pay mechanism, other disciplined forces would demand the same, which would present difficulties for the government,' he said.
Mrs Ip said the police grievances stemmed from the 'long overdue' grade structure review.
The Legislative Council's public service panel will discuss the civil service pay adjustment today.