Such rewards are vital to improve flagging morale, says a staff spokesman More than 1,000 civil servants have been promoted this year despite attempts to reduce bureaucracy, the civil service chief said yesterday. In an open letter, Joseph Wong Wing-ping said he understood that civil servants were concerned about their prospects. He acknowledged there had been rumours that promotions would be put on hold, with unions worrying that the reduction of opportunities, added to an increasing workload, would affect morale. But Mr Wong said a survey by the Civil Service Bureau found that 1,008 officers had been promoted from January to last month. 'This figure demonstrates that despite the need to achieve financial savings and reduce the civil service establishment, promotion exercises are still being conducted where there are operational and organisational needs,' he said. A bureau spokeswoman said promotion figures for previous years were not available. The chairman of the Government Employees Association, Chan Che-kwong, said the 1,000 promotions were 'better than nothing', but more opportunities were vital to improve staff morale. The police force had about 200 officers promoted in the first nine months of the year. The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department and the Immigration Department each had about 100 officers elevated. Mr Wong said 555 of those promoted held lower-rank jobs with a maximum 26 points on the master pay scale, or $33,940 a month. 'This underlines the fact that meritorious civil servants, irrespective of their ranks, continue to enjoy the award of promotion.' He said promotion was an integral part of the civil service system. 'Obviously, it has to be earned by the most deserving civil servants. It is also incumbent on civil servants, whether he or she has reached the top rank of the grade, to continue to serve the public with the fullest dedication.' Mr Chan said he was pleased to hear that promotions would continue despite the efforts to cut the size of the civil service by 10 per cent to 160,000 by 2006-07. Staff had their pay cut by between 1.58 per cent and 4.42 per cent last July. 'The workload of civil servants has been increasing in the wake of a freeze on recruitment and introduction of voluntary retirement schemes,' he said, 'Staff morale will be further hit if promotion exercises are withdrawn.'