EMB says restoring it is unjustified but may offer gratuities to keep long-serving teachers in Hong Kong Education chiefs are refusing to restore the full special allowance for native English-speaking teachers, called for to prevent a feared exodus from the scheme. But they are dangling the carrot of higher gratuities for teachers who complete multiple contracts to encourage experienced NETs to stay in Hong Kong. The NET community has been waiting to see whether the Education and Manpower Bureau would restore the special monthly allowance - meant to help with accommodation and other costs - to $13,000, as requested in a petition lodged in March. The 133-signature petition was drawn up by seven NETs who claimed teachers in the scheme had suffered a 12.4 per cent cut in their earning power over two years. When exchange rates were taken into account, it was even greater, at 41 per cent for Australians and 46 per cent for Canadians. But senior EMB officials revealed this week that they had no intention of restoring the special allowance to NETs, who saw it cut to $10,500 last summer. Others face the same cut in August this year. Sam Hui Chark-shum, Assistant Secretary (special duties), who oversees the scheme, said: 'We do not think we have sufficient justification for adjusting the special allowance upwards without support from objective statistical data. 'But we appreciate that some NETs face a significant drop in the total value of their package. We hope to issue some good news about the gratuity as we issue the terms and conditions for contracts to schools at the end of May. 'The broad direction of change is to provide a more generous gratuity level upon renewal of contract and an even higher level for subsequent contracts.' Mr Hui said the higher gratuity levels would not be mentioned in contracts issued for the coming year as the change would have to go before Legco and there was unlikely to be enough time in the current legislative session. But if the EMB went ahead with the move it could be implemented retrospectively for teachers who renewed their contracts this summer. Sources in the EMB said figures under discussion for the gratuity - currently 15 per cent of salary on completion of contract - included 20 per cent for second contracts and up to 25 per cent thereafter. The Native English Speaking Teachers' Association (Nesta) said its members were angry and upset at the EMB's refusal to reinstate the full special allowance. Chairman John Murnane said: 'Nesta is extremely disappointed that the EMB has failed to heed its arguments for reinstating the special allowance. We are totally sympathetic to NETs who are angry and upset at this news. 'To counter this cut we now insist the proposal from the EMB for an increase in the gratuity for NETs who do repeat contracts becomes a reality for this year onwards. Otherwise, this is not a good announcement for the current low state of morale of NETs in Hong Kong.' Perry Bayer, a NET at True Light Middle School of Hong Kong, said of the possibility of an increased gratuity: 'I think it is a positive development but it might not stem the tide of people leaving the scheme because they have such acute immediate needs. It would be preferable to look at the special allowance.' Secondary NET Andrea Mackenzie, who drew up the petition, said: 'It is a terrible disappointment that they are not restoring the special allowance. We thought this was a way the EMB could show its support for NETs under the difficult circumstances we now face. 'The idea of a gratuity does not help people meet the high day-to-day expenses of living in Hong Kong. The gratuity is a two-year wait and depends upon your employer deeming that you have satisfactorily completed your contract, so it is subjective.' The EMB revealed its plans for the gratuity and special allowance during a row over late issuing of terms and conditions for NETs' contracts, which officials have pledged will be out by the end of the month. Principals said the end of May was only two weeks later than usual.