Fire services union wary of bias towards police

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 August, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 August, 2009, 12:00am

The fire services union chief yesterday continued to challenge Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen for favouring the police, despite government assurances that there would be no bias in policy.

After a two-day staff meeting, Chiu Sin-chung, chairman of the Fire Services Department Staff General Association, read out a statement appealing to Mr Tsang and Secretary for the Civil Service Denise Yue Chung-yee to fairly address the demands of the seven sectors of the disciplined services.

'The chief executive is not our relative, but all disciplined services are his limbs, his brothers. We believe the chief executive does not wish to see the brothers having discord and criticising one another,' Mr Chiu said.

A spokesman for the Chief Executive's Office yesterday said it was confident the Civil Service Bureau would put an objective, well-balanced proposal on a grade structure review.

The bureau's stance on the review, which recommended pay rises and improved benefits for the disciplined services, will be submitted to the Executive Council for a final decision as early as next month.

On Monday, unionists from the immigration and the correctional services departments criticised Mr Tsang's earlier emphasis on his family ties with the police, raising fears of bias.

In June, Mr Tsang highlighted his ties with the police when dissuading officers from staging a protest over the delayed implementation of the review recommendations.

'My father was a police officer, my younger brother was a police officer, my sister-in-law was a police officer, my uncle was a police officer. Among my cousins, there are police officers,' he said at the time.

A day after unionists' public criticisms, Miss Yue stressed that no policies would be biased towards any single service.

But her assurances did not allay fears.

'Department heads or unionists should be informed of such an assurance earlier,' Mr Chiu said.

The union held the two-day staff meeting to discuss the review and further action on the matter.

'As a responsible labour union, we will not threaten citizens or confront the government to get what we want. This is selfish behaviour,' Mr Chiu said.

Yet he did not rule out the possibility of action if the government failed to address firefighters' two concerns - a reduction in hours and a new allowance reflecting their duties.

The review recommended a cut in firemen's hours with three preconditions - that there would be no extra cost, no additional staff, and service levels would remain the same. Firemen now work a 54-hour week, the longest of the disciplined services.