A PROPOSAL for a joint retirement scheme for all has been university staff rejected by unions. They said the scheme might jeopardise the benefits of 10,000 colleagues in existing programmes. Some workers had resigned because recent changes to the retirement fund law aimed to reduce entitlements which in the past were guaranteed. Unions said more staff would quit if the guarantees were undermined further. The proposal to set up a joint scheme was initiated by a taskforce comprising heads of the finance sections of the seven tertiary institutions. It aimed to unify university staff benefits and meet laws on retirement schemes which took effect recently. But a joint university staff associations' working group decided on Saturday to oppose the plan, saying it would affect the existing schemes enjoyed by more than 10,000 members. A consultant appointed by the taskforce suggested recruits after late 1996 should have to join a standardised retirement scheme and help shoulder the investment risk. But the unions said the existing funds' liability would increase without new members. Members with many years of service were entitled to increased payments when they quit. Vice-chairman of the City University Staff Association, Professor Joseph Lai Ki-leuk, said: 'We now have a very healthy retirement fund. Introducing the new scheme would seriously affect the old one.' The working group said the new scheme would be unfair to new recruits, because many issues - including who should monitor the investment decisions of the consultant manager of the new fund - were unclear. It said the taskforce should work out another proposal that would not affect existing staff benefits. It will seek a meeting with Antony Leung Kam-chung, chairman of the University Grants Committee, which funded the $1.6 million consultancy exercise, to express their views. The proposal was raised partly because of the introduction of the Occupational Retirement Schemes Ordinance, which requires all pension funds to be registered in an economic condition. As the Government has declined to give financial support to guarantee the schemes are healthy at publicly-funded tertiary institutions, some universities have passed the investment risk on to staff. The taskforce is seeking the blessing of their councils to go ahead with the second phase study into the implementation details of the new joint scheme. The City University's council consented yesterday despite some staff members' opposition. James Ng Kam-ming, director of finance of City University, said it would be unfair to new staff if they were forced to join the existing schemes which stood of chance of becoming insolvent during a bad investment period. 'We understand staff concern. I am also a scheme member. We may come up with new ideas in the second phase study.'