Civil servants planning to take voluntary retirement were yesterday warned to expect less compensation than was offered in 2000. Joseph Wong Wing-ping, the Secretary for Civil Service, said in the last round the payment was set with reference to similar schemes in the private sector. Since the private sector was now paying staff less attractive packages, the government might reduce its offer to its staff if it goes ahead with such a scheme this year. 'There is room for downward adjustment to the payment if we finally decide to launch the scheme,' Mr Wong said. At present, compensation is capped at the lump sum pension due at an officer's retirement age, plus six months' salary. So far 9,774 officers have received approval to take early retirement under the last round - 8,169 have already left and the remainder will leave by the end of the year. Peter Wong Hyo, vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Chinese Civil Servants' Association, said his union hoped the government would announce the details of the new scheme as soon as possible. 'Many of my colleagues said even if the payment is worse than before, they might not refuse. The biggest concern is how the government is to restore the spirit of partnership to maintain our morale,' Mr Wong said. Meanwhile, five out of eight civil service unions have snubbed a meeting with a government taskforce to review the pay-adjustment mechanism for civil servants, criticising the lack of a briefing a month after its report on reform was completed. The proposed reforms include linking pay to performance in the medium term, and introducing flexible pay ranges.