Call for Exco-union talks on civil service wages before decision

There is a need to understand civil service staff morale before making a decision, unionist says

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 June, 2013, 12:38pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 August, 2013, 4:13am

The Executive Council should consult civil service unions on staff morale in future before making a final decision on their pay adjustments, a unionist says.

Philip Kwok Chi-tak, who represents senior government employees, said his union would ask Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to set up an independent arbitration panel to settle a dispute over this year's unpopular below-inflation offer.

The union might adopt an "unco-operative attitude" if Leung refused, the chairman of the Senior Government Officers Association said yesterday.

"I would suggest that the Exco meet civil service unions to understand how the decision would affect staff morale, before the members start discussing the level of pay adjustment," Kwok said.

Unions acting for both disciplined and non-disciplined services accuse the government of basing its wage proposal solely on a survey of private-sector pay trends when five other factors spelt out in the adjustment mechanism, including morale, should have been considered.

The offer of 3.92 per cent for civil servants in the lower and middle salary bands and 2.55 per cent for those in the upper band is identical to the recommendations of the annual government-commissioned survey.

"The pay trend survey fails to give the full picture of the market," Kwok said. "It was only two weeks ago that we became aware that the remuneration packages in some companies comprise not only cash and bonuses, but also stocks and options, which are excluded from the survey."

An arbitration panel has been used to settle a civil service pay dispute only four times since 1968 - the last being 19 years ago.

Executive councillor Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee said the idea of meeting unions ahead of the decision was worth considering.

"I sympathise with their situation," the former security minister said. "They did not request a meeting this time, but I think it can be considered next time."

In an attempt to ease the tension, Secretary for the Civil Service Paul Tang Kwok-wai will today meet unions that do not sit on the Pay Trend Survey Committee, the body that administers the annual survey.

Leung Chau-ting, of the Federation of Civil Service Unions, said it would urge the government to make the mechanism more representative. He said Tang, who was handling pay adjustments in the civil service for the first time, should have shown more awareness of staff morale.