Legco set to seal top civil servants' pay cut

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 December, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 December, 2009, 12:00am

The government's proposed 5.38 per cent pay cut for senior civil servants is likely to clear a hurdle in the legislature tomorrow despite last-minute efforts by some lawmakers to minimise the reduction.

The vote comes six months after the Executive Council approved the pay cut - in line with private-sector pay trends - that will affect about 18,200 civil servants earning more than HK$48,401 a month.

But the pay cuts, expected to take effect on January 1, may last no longer than three months as next year's annual pay adjustment for all civil servants is due in April.

Lawmakers and civil service unions are calling for a review of the mechanism for introducing pay cuts when private-sector pay falls, saying that controversies arising from the legislation to implement the cuts have harmed relations between the government and its staff.

With backing from the Legislative Council's two major blocs, the Democratic Party and the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, the government's proposal is expected to be endorsed.

But at least 16 lawmakers oppose it, including unionist legislators, the Civic Party, the League of Social Democrats and some independents.

Some opponents have called instead for a pay freeze for all civil servants, while some are worried that the move could contribute to another wave of pay cuts in the private sector.

Independent lawmaker Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee and the Civic Party's Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee want to reduce the pay cut for senior civil servants to 3.4 per cent, while Raymond Ho Chung-tai is aiming for 2.91 per cent.

However, these moves are unlikely to be backed.

In June, the Executive Council decided to freeze the pay of middle- and lower-ranking staff, even though pay-trend data suggested a 1.98 per cent cut would be appropriate.

Li Kwai-yin, vice-president of the 100,000-strong Chinese Civil Servants' Association, said the legislation had politicised civil servants' pay cuts.

'Some members of the public think the government is forcing a pay cut by legislation, while some think civil servants are unwilling to accept it even during an economic downturn. It does no good for any party,' she said.

Li said pay adjustments should be determined by negotiations between the government and civil servants.