RTHK criticised for recruitment policies
RTHK did too little to promote its contract employees to full-time civil service positions last year and should cut back on its contract hires, lawmakers said yesterday.
The public broadcaster began to recruit more contract staff after the government froze the recruitment of civil servants due to the economic downturn in 2000.
While other government departments resumed recruitment of civil servants in 2008, RTHK had to wait until 2009, when the row over its editorial independence as a government department came to an end.
Lawmaker Pan Pey-chyou said at a meeting of the Legislative Council's information technology and broadcasting panel that it was unacceptable that none of the 70 staff RTHK gave promotions to last year were on contracts.
'Many of the contractual non-civil-service staff could have been civil servants if the historical problem of RTHK's role had not emerged ... The problem was not caused by the staff themselves, but because of the chaotic system of the government,' he said.
That broadcaster recruited 10 new civil servants last year, of whom seven were previously contract workers at RTHK. Contract staff can only apply for a civil service position during public recruitment exercises.
A Legco paper showed that at the programme-officer grade alone, there were 270 employees on contract and 368 civil servants.
Gordon Leung Chung-tai, RTHK's deputy director of broadcasting, said it was normal government practice to give priority for promotion to civil servants, and the system had long proven effective.
RTHK was a unique government department, he said, since it was involved in the media, a field where it was common to recruit employees on contracts. Some of the broadcaster's contract staff might not want to become civil servants, he added.
Lawmaker Lee Wing-tat said the unstable prospects for contract staff could damage staff morale and programme quality.
Elizabeth Tse Man-yee, permanent secretary at the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau, said it would take time for RTHK to promote contract employees to civil servant status, and the bureau would try to speed up the process.