The government should start giving proper staff jobs to the thousands of civil servants it has employed for years on cheap contracts designed for temporary workers, unionists urged yesterday.
Some 14,000 staff are employed on non-civil service contracts - 4,700 of them for over five years and some for more than 10 years, a Legco public hearing was told.
Lawmakers and unionists urged the government to stop abusing non-civil service contracts and hand out proper staff contracts instead. Priority should be given to those who have been dealt a series of short-term contracts, said Li Kwai-yin, vice-president of the Hong Kong Chinese Civil Servants' Association.
She said: "When this scheme was introduced in 1999, the Civil Service Bureau promised it was only for jobs that are short-term and seasonal in nature."
But since then, she added, various government departments had "abused" the scheme and continued to hire staff on short-term contracts on a long-term basis.
She and representatives from more than 20 unions said staff on non-civil service contracts were paid less for doing the same work as those on proper staff contracts. They also missed out on medical and travel benefits.
And as hopes of ever being given a proper staff job faded when one short-term contract led to another, morale among these workers was also suffering.
Some unionists called for proper contracts to be handed out in phases, starting with those who had spent longest on the non-civil service contracts.
Secretary for the Civil Service Paul Tang Kwok-wai said that decisions as to what contracts were offered lay in the hands of each department and bureau hiring staff, not his department.
The departments have their own criteria, he added.
As to how many civil servants the government planned to hire in the coming year, he said he would only know that once Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah presented his budget next month.