The largest civil service union has dropped its support for a pay freeze and is pushing for a 1.61 per cent increase across the board, despite the cut suggested by a private sector wage survey. The Chinese Civil Servants' Association attacked Liberal Party chief James Tien Pei-chun over his call for salaries to be reduced. 'I suspect people like James Tien are ignorant of the civil service pay adjustment mechanism. But he just keeps talking and talking,' said association spokesman Peter Wong Hyo. The private sector wage survey, which the Government uses to adjust pay for civil servants, found that salaries had fallen over the past year by 0.62 per cent for lower-ranking staff and by 0.7 per cent for middle-ranking staff, but had risen by 0.87 per cent for senior staff. After deducting the annual increments many civil servants receive based on seniority, the net indicator comes to minus 1.78 per cent for junior staff, minus 1.97 per cent for middle-ranking staff and minus 0.41 per cent for senior staff. But the association, which said last week it supported a freeze, yesterday said the 189,000 civil servants deserved a rise this year. Mr Wong said civil service pay adjustments had been lagging behind the private sector over the past decade. Accumulated differences had reached a positive of 2.59 per cent for the lower band, minus 3.58 per cent for the middle band and minus 3.32 for the upper band, according to the association. 'The Government's deficit budget is turning into surplus and the economy has recovered. It's time the Government repaid us some of the difference,' he said. The group demanded a 1.61 per cent increase after offsetting the negative indicators with the accumulated difference over the past decade. But not all unionists agreed. The chairman of the Government Disciplined Services General Union, Wong Wai-hung, said a pay freeze was more acceptable. 'After weighing up the economic environment as well as public sentiment, a pay freeze is a good arrangement,' he said. Chan Cheung-yee, who represents junior ranks in the Model Scale I Staff Consultative Council, said he was shocked by the pay-rise call. 'The general sentiment is to accept a pay freeze. What the association has proposed is rather surprising,' he said, adding he would study the rationale before deciding whether to back the call. The Pay Trend Survey Committee is to endorse its indicators at a meeting this week.