Pay-rise plan splits lawmakers

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 February, 2012, 12:00am


Lawmakers are split on whether colleagues who do not work as hard and skip many meetings should receive less pay under a controversial plan to nearly double their salaries.

Amid a public outcry over the proposed rise, they said a clear salary scale that sets their pay against that of ministers was more important than any pay rise to establish their job status and end disputes over their pay that arise every four years.

Legislators propose paying themselves HK$141,000 a month, up from the current HK$73,150. Their pay is adjusted annually for inflation.

Democratic Party lawmaker Cheung Man-kwong suggested a two-tier salary scale under which those who have other jobs would be paid less.

'There is strong public reaction against the proposed increase, as the public feel some lawmakers have an unsatisfactory performance record,' said Cheung at a Legco subcommittee meeting yesterday. 'Some do not show up before 3pm and have low attendance rates in Legco committees.'

But other legislators disagreed. 'Some lawmakers may not show up before 3pm, but they contribute in different ways,' said Abraham Razack, who represents the real estate and construction sector functional constituency, which has 767 voters. 'They are elected by voters, too.' In the 2008 Legco election, Razack was the only candidate in the sector and was returned unopposed.

Import and export sector lawmaker Wong Ting-kwong said a two-tier pay scale would be an insult to lawmakers. 'There is no such thing as part-time or full-time lawmakers,' said Wong, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong. 'The level of commitment to work is a matter of personal conduct, not whether the lawmaker has another job.'

Performance analyses conducted by the South China Morning Post - the latest of which was reported in August - showed sports, performing arts, culture and publication sector lawmaker Timothy Fok Tsun-ting had the worst attendance record for six years in a row. He has one of the worst voting records in Legco and has not moved a motion in 10 years.

Heung Yee Kuk legislator Lau Wong-fat and finance sector legislator David Li Kwok-po also performed poorly, the Post found.

Cheung said the idea would be to set lawmakers' salaries in a scale, measured against those of ministers.

'We also want to take the opportunity to set up a system so that we can avoid unnecessary arguments on pay every four years,' he said.

The proposed salary would compare favourably with the pay of political assistants, the lowest tier of the ministerial ranks, who earn between HK$126,935 and HK$155,140 a month. On top of their salary, lawmakers receive a HK$28,020 annual medical allowance and an end-of-service gratuity of 15 per cent of their pay over four years.

The subcommittee will submit a report on the proposal to Legco's house committee on Friday.