Caretakers and technicians on public estates have been told to form a company to bid for Housing Authority jobs in response to a reform that will hive off estate maintenance and management. The principle of the privatisation plan was supported by staff, according to Director of Housing Tony Miller, who met their representatives last week. Authority members are expected to endorse the plan at next month's full meeting, with the aim being to carry it out next year. Under the plan, contained in a recent consultancy report, 9,000 caretakers, managers, and technicians working at the 165 public rental estates would be transferred to a firm set up by the staff. The firm would be financially independent and staff would have to work out a business plan to compete with private property management firms. But they would be given preference in bidding for authority jobs over the first few years. Other options listed in the report include setting up a joint venture and forming a subsidiary firm under the authority. But officials have opted for the privatisation plan, it is understood. The Alliance of Housing Department Staff Unions convenor, Lam Man-cheuk, accused the department of failing to consult staff. 'The department appoints some workers as representatives and then tells them the plan,' he said. 'It is not consultation. And those appointed representatives cannot represent us.' The alliance has been fighting the plan for months, but repeated requests for talks with the management have been stonewalled. The department has not yet formally released any details about the plan to the group. Authority chairman Rosanna Wong Yick-ming said she appreciated the concerns of staff and promised no one would be forced to accept any change. She also hinted that she would adopt a gradual approach. 'I do not like sudden changes. Even if the direction of our policy is correct, it does not necessarily mean we have to reach our goal in one big step,' she said. 'There is a need to have more consultation and let our staff know why we do so.' Having to hive off estate management did not mean the authority had to sack all its staff at once, she said. 'We are an operational department and we have a lot of work to do. Even if we have privatised part of our jobs, we still need people to monitor the jobs done by the outside firms. We still have to deliver a satisfactory service to our customers.' The privatisation plan was also a natural result of the authority's flat-sale scheme launched last year, she said. The scheme allows sitting tenants to buy their rental units, and when tenants become property owners they can choose their own management agency.