Social workers may strike over wages

MORE than 200 social workers say they will strike if they do not get an answer to their pay-rise demands within 14 days.

Social welfare services at juvenile correctional homes and children's homes as well as family services, rehabilitation and community centres all over the territory would be hit by the strike.

Members of the Social Work Assistant Branch (SWAB) of the Hong Kong Chinese Civil Servants' Association say they have made their case for improved pay and prospects to the Social Welfare Department, without satisfaction.

The social workers are asking for a wage increase of at least $2,700, plus better promotion and training opportunities.

''The content of the department's recommendation letter to the Civil Service Branch was empty, irresponsible and did not reflect the unfair treatment faced by the social work assistants,'' the chairman of the SWAB, Lai Wing-shing, said.

He said if the department failed to give a satisfactory reply to their letter by September 23, they would take industrial action.

''One of the options is to go on strike. We will call a meeting on September 23,'' Mr Lai said.

Of the 427 social work assistants, about 170 are members of the association. Mr Lai said the probable industrial action would be joined by the other 50 members of more senior grades.

He said that because of a high turnover among social work assistants who were diploma-holders, the department cut back staff at that rank in 1983 and created the welfare worker grade which needed only Form Five qualifications.

''The problem is that welfare workers can usually be promoted to a senior rank and enjoy a salary higher than that of a social welfare assistant after a few years,'' he said.