Lower starting salaries have been set for new teachers at Polytechnic University, under a pay package approved yesterday. The university council's ruling means assistant professors will start at $42,900 a month, rising to a maximum of $64,000. The current range is between $44,961 and $75,109. For associate professors, the new starting salary will be $53,000 a month, with a maximum of $79,000. Their pay currently ranges from $69,854 to $93,835. The new scheme does not affect full professors. A university spokesman stressed the new pay scheme would apply only to new staff and was intended to bring salaries in line with market trends. It follows the Legislative Council's decision last year to give universities the freedom to delink their salaries from the civil service pay scale. But the Polytechnic University staff association, which tried unsuccessfully to block the vote, said staff feared they might also be brought under the new scheme in future because of a shrinking budget. 'We are disappointed that the scheme was passed before a mechanism for slotting existing staff into it had been put out to consultation,' said Joseph Lee Heung-wing, an assistant professor in applied mathematics and an executive member of the association. The university budget will be slashed by 10 per cent in the coming academic year. 'Even if university funding is increased in future, staff salaries may not be adjusted upwards,' Dr Lee said. 'The new pay mechanism will encourage the rise of a shoe-shining culture in the university, as department heads enjoy excessive powers.' The new pay scale will take effect next month. Gratuity payments for new staff will be limited to 10 per cent, compared with the current 10 to 15 per cent. But additional performance-based rewards will be provided. Meanwhile, the University of Hong Kong's council is due to vote on a new pay package at the end of next month, which will include performance-based salary rewards.