The social workers' union has threatened to call a strike if the government refuses to increase funding to non-governmental organisations for staff pay rises. The threat came as the administration failed to immediately accept the union's new pay adjustment proposal. Social Workers' General Union president Peter Cheung Kwok-che made the proposal at yesterday's Lump-Sum Grant Steering Committee meeting to request the government cover all NGO staff salaries, and give a lump sum to cover other expenses. The proposal was the first concrete plan suggested by the union as a way to tackle the unresolved issue of social workers' low pay. Early this month 5,000 social workers and welfare officers took half a day's leave and marched in Central to protest against the lump-sum grant system, which they said had cut funding for welfare groups and reduced pay. Mr Cheung said that the proposal would result in a 'four-win' situation. 'Social workers would feel relieved, because their salaries would be secure. NGOs wouldn't have the hassle of finding money for pay. Service users wouldn't need to pay so much fees to use social services. And, by our calculation, the Social Welfare Department would pay less,' he said. Director of Social Welfare Stephen Fisher did not say if he would accept the proposals, saying they would be discussed again at the next meeting in early November. 'These sets of proposals are put forward by members. We will put these proposals up to the government. The final decision rests with the government,' Mr Fisher said. Sam Leung Kin-hung, who heads the department's social workers' union, was not optimistic the administration would accept their proposal, saying the plan would be like cancelling the lump-sum grant system, given that about 80 per cent of the lump-sum grants were spent on salaries. Chua Hoi-wai, chairman of the Hong Kong Social Workers Association, said that if the government adopted Mr Cheung's idea staff could move freely to other organisations, because their years of experience would be recognised. But he was concerned the Social Welfare Department would have control over staffing issues, and NGOs would not be able to hire staff according to needs. Mr Chua is also a business director of the Hong Kong Council of Social Service, which strongly opposes cancelling lump-sum grants. Before the lump-sum grant system, the government covered all spending by welfare groups. Under the grant system, introduced in 2000, NGOs can decide staff deployment and wages on their own.