A review of civil service allowances has been launched amid union fears that the Government may take advantage of the economic downturn to cut payments. Staff would soon be consulted about a long-awaited overhaul of duty-related allowances, Secretary for Civil Service Joseph Wong Wing-ping said yesterday. Job-related allowances are additional payments to compensate staff for performing duties not normally expected of their grade or rank. They include extraneous duties, shifts and hardship arising from performing 'obnoxious' or dangerous duties. The president of the Federation of Civil Service Unions, Leung Chau-ting, fears the Government will take advantage of the ailing economy to cut allowances. 'We do not oppose scrapping those outdated ones, but we think there is a valid case to keep allowances such as shift and obnoxious duties.' He said most clerical staff would prefer to be compensated with money rather than leave for overtime. 'When you take leave as compensation you have to tackle the work accumulated on your desk the following day.' Mr Wong said the review was not a simple matter of increases or cuts. 'First of all we have to agree on some principles, such as under what conditions do we give the allowance, and whether there should be a regular review mechanism. 'If the conditions under which the allowances were first given have already changed, shall we change accordingly?' he said. The review would take into account the principle of fairness to staff as well as the need to be accountable to the public.