Plea for 'fair' staff benefits

SUBSIDISED welfare groups have complained about disparities in fringe benefits given to their workers and government counterparts, saying they erode morale and lead to a high staff turnover.

They want Governor Chris Patten, in his policy address in October, to increase their medical and housing allowances.

In an unprecedented move, the Hong Kong Council of Social Service, which represents 229 non-governmental organisations, has drafted a 4,500-word submission for the Governor's 1995 policy address.

The paper, similar to the Governor's address but focusing only on welfare issues, has been submitted to Mr Patten and the head of the Central Policy Unit.

Copies have also been sent to the Chief Secretary, Anson Chan Fang On-sang, and related policy branches and departments.

Legislator Hui Yin-fat, the director of the council, said: 'We think we should be more active. We should take the initiative to make recommendations for the Governor in advance, instead of just reacting afterwards.

'We need a co-ordinating approach on welfare as a whole, not on single items.' In its submission, the council highlighted a wide range of welfare services, including those for the disabled, broken families, women, children, drug abusers and the elderly, as well as workers' benefits.

It said there were great disparities between the Government's and subvented welfare agencies' fringe benefits, including housing, medical and dental benefits.

'If true partnership is to be maintained between the Government and the subvented sector, the subvented welfare sector should be treated fairly,' it said.

Many physiotherapists, for example, join the Hospital Authority or other government departments for better benefits.

The council suggested the provision of medical benefits be next on the Government's agenda, along with making improvements to the existing mortgage interest subsidy.

Voluntary welfare agencies also hope they can work with the Government to develop social welfare services.

'There should also be a rational system of co-operation with a set of reasonable procedures . . . for the policy and planning system, resource allocation, priority-setting and accountability,' the submission said.

The agencies are also considering drawing up performance pledges to provide 'maximum accountability'. At present, only a few agencies, such as the Hong Kong Family Welfare Society, have charters or performance pledges similar to those of government departments.