Talks on special accommodation allowances continue after demand for increase to $15,000 is dropped
High-level talks have led to agreement over new bonus payments to boost retention of native English-speaking teachers, the NETs' association says.
But negotiations with officials continue over the future of the NETs' special allowance after the Native English Speaking Teachers' Association (Nesta) dropped a demand to raise it to $15,000.
The special allowance, which was cut from $13,000 to $10,500 a month for half of NETs last year and for the other half this month, is meant to cover higher rental costs and other additional expenses faced by expatriates.
The association is launching an online poll of 600 NETs today on three options to review the special allowance each year to keep pace with changing living costs that have been thrashed out with officials.
A delegation from Nesta met behind closed doors for talks on NETs' pay packages with Chris Wardlaw, deputy secretary for education, and Sam Hui Chark-shum, assistant secretary in charge of the NET scheme, for the second time on Thursday.
Spokesman Perry Bayer said they agreed to a proposal from the Education and Manpower Bureau for a bonus amounting to 5 per cent of salary for NETs who sign a second contract and to 10 per cent for those staying for a third or subsequent one.
But their demand for the special allowance to be increased to $15,000 fell down when it was not supported by evidence on the cost of living from the 2004 and 2005 consumer price index and rental and valuation index.
'We are naturally disappointed that our demand of $15,000 cannot be met but we have their agreement that the level of the special allowance will be raised,' he said.
'There isn't an amount that we can put on it at the moment. We've also reached an agreement that the special allowance adjustment mechanism will be decided as soon as possible. The NETs will vote for their preferred options.'
Co-ordinator Andrea Mackenzie said the retention bonus, which would be paid from August 2005, was better than the gratuity originally proposed by the EMB.
'I think it will help to reduce the crisis of recruitment,' she said.
NETs have until Wednesday September 21 to post their votes. The association says the results will be analysed by the EMB and used to draw up final proposals for consideration by Fanny Law Fan-chiu-fun, permanent secretary for education, on September 23.
A spokesman for the EMB said: 'We will look into various proposals, including those from the NETs, with a view to further improving the remuneration package and addressing their concerns.'