Lawmakers want policy review after 700 contract staff let go

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 December, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 December, 2009, 12:00am

Lawmakers yesterday urged the government to review its policy on hiring contract employees, after more than 700 non-civil service contract staff in the Buildings Department learned their contracts would be terminated.

The department employs 738 full-time contract staff to work on removing unauthorised building works and improving building safety standards, under a 10-year enforcement programme that will end in 2010-11.

The Buildings Department says about 550 contract workers will be affected, while others cite larger numbers.

The department's non-civil service contract staff association said it was told last month by Director of Buildings Au Choi-kai that members' contracts would not be renewed.

'He told us that the department failed to obtain government funding and we would be sacked in different phases, which meant our contracts would not be renewed,' the association's Ada Kong said.

'About 600 will lose their job some time before March 31, 2011 [when their contracts expire].' The contracts expire at different times.

Unionist legislator Ip Wai-ming called on the government to review the department's 10-year plan to see if the work could be extended. 'We are talking about more than 700 people and their families. Do you know how many people will be affected if the government does not renew contracts with them?' Ip said.

A Buildings Department spokeswoman said: 'The department will remain in close contact with the contract staff to work out arrangements for their departure and to understand their concerns.'

Secretary for the Civil Service Denise Yue Chung-yee said the employment policy was reviewed three years ago and provided a flexible means to respond to changing needs of bureaus and departments. 'Some government works are time-limited. The Buildings Department hired the non-civil service staff to remove illegal structures... To my understanding the work is under a 10-year plan that will end in March 2011,' she said.