NETs petition for allowance rise up to 31pc

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 May, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 May, 2008, 12:00am

More than 470 native-English-speaking teachers have demanded a hefty increase in their special allowance in a petition sent to Education Secretary Michael Suen Ming-yeung yesterday.

The petition, which was signed by more than half of Hong Kong's NETs, calls on the government to consider increasing the special allowance by as much as 31 per cent, which would take the allowance to HK$18,000.

Teachers currently receive HK$12,950 to help cover rental expenses but the Native English-speaking Teachers' Association (Nesta) is negotiating with the Education Bureau to obtain an increase in light of higher rents.

Steven Madden, a member of Nesta's benefits and welfare committee, said education officials had suggested increasing the allowance by about 9 per cent to HK$14,000.

But he said this did not reflect the true increase in the rental market and was not based on the index recommended by the government's Rating and Valuation Department.

'Based on increases in the rental index in the last two years, Nesta is looking for HK$18,000 as a starting point for negotiations with the EdB,' he said.

Nesta calculated its figures based on the Rating and Valuation Department's domestic rental index, which shows a 31.4 per cent increase in rents since January 2006.

The petition states that the Education Bureau calculated the 9 per cent increase based on average rental prices.

However, the Rating and Valuation Department, which provides property valuation advice to the government, confirmed that it prefers to rely on the rental index rather than average rental prices.

'Comparatively speaking, the index is a better reflection of the market performance when compared with average rents,' a spokeswoman said.

A bureau spokeswoman said she could not comment on the fact that the bureau relied on average rental prices by class rather than the rental index as recommended by the Rating and Valuation Department.

She said the bureau was still calculating the special allowance and had always used average rental prices to make its calculations.

Mr Madden stressed that Nesta's position was negotiable. 'We just want to see a fair increase of the fixed special allowance based on real increases in the rental market in Hong Kong,' he said.

'I would say that we are looking for a substantial increase to the special allowance rate to reflect the market situation.'

The petition also takes issue with the bureau's suggestion that it would take at least a year to review the special allowance.

It calls for an immediate review and says it should not take such an 'inordinate length of time'.

The petition was signed by 472 of the 922 NETs working in Hong Kong schools.

Perry Bayer, another member of Nesta's benefits and welfare committee, said the association was 'thrilled' with the response from teachers. He believed the organisation had never had so many teachers sign a petition.

Nesta, which is due to meet bureau officials again next month, argues that an increase in the overall package for NETs is necessary to offset spiralling living costs and keep experienced staff in Hong Kong.

The association says teachers' packages have not been substantially reviewed since the scheme was introduced in 1997.

Nesta has also asked for a new education allowance for NETs with families, and for the retention bonus - 10 per cent of annual salary for teachers on second or subsequent contracts - to be increased after six years of service, and then again after eight years.

NET benefits

Teachers are hoping for an increase in their special allowance to cope with higher rents

The number who signed a petition sent to Michael Suen: 472