Civil service groups told their chief yesterday they wanted bigger pay increases than those recommended by a study, but were not optimistic they would get them.
Meeting Secretary for the Civil Service Paul Tang Kwok-wai, they demanded 5.1 per cent - in line with inflation - for lower-paid staff. The annual study of private-sector pay suggested a 3.8 per cent increase.
"Last year's raise was low at 3.92 per cent, but this year it's even lower," said Li Wai-yee, who chairs the staff side of the model scale 1 staff consultative council. "We won't rule out … withdrawing from [the pay trend survey committee]."
The committee, including independent businesspeople and professionals together with government and staff representatives, oversees the annual survey. This year's study, released this month, recommended pay increases of 3.8 per cent, 4.71 per cent and 5.96 per cent for government employees in the lower, middle and upper salary bands, respectively.
Li said a 5.1 per cent raise would be in line with the past year's increase in the Consumer Price Index that relates to low-expenditure households. She said Tang said he would pass her views to the Executive Council.
But staff representatives acknowledge they face an uphill battle in achieving their demands as the government has hardly ever veered from its proposed increase after meeting them.
Junior Police Officers' Association Joe Chan Cho-kwong said officials gave him the "cold shoulder" when he demanded a 5.2 per cent raise, even though it was just 0.1 per cent above inflation. Chan said the Police Force Council, which includes his association, had no plan to rejoin the survey committee after withdrawing from it last year.
In another sign of dissatisfaction with the process, the Senior Government Officers Association - representing higher-paid staff - boycotted a meeting of the survey committee, questioning the survey's credibility.
The rest of the groups that attended the meeting all endorsed the survey, but stressed they were still disappointed.
Last year, civil servants in the lower and middle salary bands received a raise of 3.92 per cent, while those in the upper salary bands got a 2.55 per cent increase.
The annual survey is one of six factors considered in adjusting the salaries. Others include cost of living, morale, economic conditions and the government's fiscal position.
The government is Hong Kong's biggest employer, with more than 160,000 on its payroll.