Rank-and-file civil servants yesterday demanded they be given the same pay rise as their bosses. Staff unions were dismayed by a government suggestion that top officials again be awarded a higher percentage increase than lower-band workers. Union leader Chan Cheung-yee - representing employees earning less than $11,000 - said it was time to start closing the gap between department heads and staff. 'This continuous gap has undermined morale,' said Mr Chan, staff side chairman on the Model Scale 1 Staff Consultative Council. Unions presented a united front after reports the annual pay rise could be the lowest in more than 12 years. A government survey on the private sector suggested top officials could be awarded 6.03 per cent. Middle and lower-ranking staff might receive 5.79 per cent - lower than the upper band for the third consecutive year. Leading the calls for an across-the-board increase of 6.03 per cent, Mr Chan said the claim should be considered with reference to last year's economy. 'Our adjustment is one year behind the private sector. The economic downturn this year will eventually affect us. We expect the pay rise next year will be even worse,' he said. He dismissed suggestions the pay claim would upset the public, saying: 'We face the same problems, such as high interest rates.' Disciplined Services Consultative Council staff side chairman Michael Wong Chun-wai said: 'The fact that we are asking slightly more is due to the widening gap between the upper and lower band.' The Police Force Council stressed the need to maintain staff morale and efficiency. 'The economic downturn has brought new problems and we face more work,' said staff side spokesman Lau Kam-wah. Senior Civil Service Council spokesman Dr Leung Chi-chiu said the demand was reasonable. 'The adjustment scale is very small. But it has a very positive impact on staff morale,' he said. The unions ruled out industrial action if their demand was rejected, but urged officials to make prudent decisions. Secretary for the Civil Service Lam Woon-kwong said the pay claim would be considered.