THE Government's occupational pension proposals could cause 'irrevocable damage' to university retirement schemes, a lecturer in law at the Hong Kong Baptist University warns. Theodore Chong said the plan was a 'can of worms' which could threaten the benefits of existing scheme members. He called on the Government to introduce sweeping amendments to prevent university employers being forced to make damaging changes to schemes in order to comply. 'It is ironic that a law, whose intention was to protect the retirement benefits of employees, may result in decreased benefits to these very people,' he said. 'University employers are in the process of amending schemes to employees' detriment, in order to comply with the registration requirements. 'If there is no relief in sight, irrevocable damage may be done to both the retirement schemes and the morale of the university sector.' The Government's ordinance is intended to ensure the registration and regulation of occupational retirement schemes. It has been criticised fiercely by the territory's universities, whose schemes are managed independently and supervised by trustees. According to Mr Chong, it is impractical for universities to be treated the same as private businesses, and still be able to maintain 100 per cent solvency. Under the proposals, if the scheme's funds fall below 100 per cent solvency, the actuary can require the employer to top up the scheme. 'Public universities should not, and cannot be lumped together with private businesses, for the possibility of all members of the scheme leaving employment at the valuation date is extremely remote,' he said. Solvency could fall below or rise above 100 per cent without it being significant, he said. 'While the solvency ratio is a useful barometer, it is not the sole indicator of financial health, as evidenced by the ease with which the [university] schemes meet their liabilities.' He recommended universities be exempted from the legislation and greater emphasis be placed on scrutinising retirement fund managers. 'The less-than-stellar performance of fund managers is part of the reason the university schemes are not in a better financial position,' he said.