Staff morale in the Water Supplies Department has hit an all-time low as the department prepares a feasibility study on privatising supplies, unions say. Five staff unions in the department have formed a coalition to voice their concerns and have written to Tung Chee-hwa urging him to shelve the study immediately. Spokesman for the unions Tam Wing-tai said the department had been doing a good job. He said a reliable and safe supply of water was of prime importance to the community and that was why it was inappropriate to draw a simple comparison between the department and any private firms. A department spokesman said the study had yet to start and it was too early to say whether the department would be privatised. It was selecting a consultant, which was expected to launch the three-month study at the end of this year. He said the study would look at possible ways to increase private participation in water supply. The department had already contracted out its cleaning and security services. In the letter to Mr Tung, the unions said most department staff were worried and unhappy that staff would not be represented in the study. They also believed it was a waste of money, especially in view of the economic downturn. They said the airport chaos and the Hong Kong Stadium saga showed that privatisation or corporatisation did not necessarily mean better services. Up to the end of March, the department had 6,079 employees - 370 professional staff, 2,242 technical staff and the rest clerical and general staff.