Frontline immigration staff are calling for their starting salaries to be raised by up to HK$3,000 in the latest demand by a disciplined service for higher pay and better conditions. Four immigration unions have joined forces in the campaign for their rates to be brought closer to those of police and customs staff. The starting rates for immigration assistants and officers are HK$14,275 and HK$24,050 a month respectively, HK$500 to HK$3,000 lower than equivalent ranks in the other two forces. 'It will really be a shame for the staff if we do not fight for it,' Immigration Services' Officers' Association vice-chairman Ngai Sik-shui said yesterday. Describing it as a matter of 'fairness and righteousness', he said the issue had been going on for 20 years. The unions will hold a press conference on Friday to express their demands to the public. Although the usual working hours of immigration staff, at 44 a week, are less than a police officer's 48 and customs officer's 51, Mr Ngai said immigration work nowadays was highly intensive and required professional assessment and concentration. It was not just as simple as stamping passports in the old days. A standing committee, chaired by Henry Fan Hung-ling, is working on a review of the disciplined services grade structure and will submit a report to Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen early next month. Government Disciplined Services General Union chairman Lam Kwok-ho said the union would hold a meeting of staff from all services next month. He said the unions were worried the current global financial turmoil, which could affect government revenue, might make their cause more difficult. The Police Superintendents' Association has made a 10-point submission on improvements to senior and directorate-grade pay, including annual salary increments of 10 per cent, which has sparked dissatisfaction in the front-line ranks. But the chairman of the Hong Kong Police Inspectors' Association, Liu Kit-ming, was unwilling to comment directly yesterday, saying: 'Other unions have their freedom of expression. We don't comment on details of others' recommendations.' Meanwhile, firefighters have demanded a reduction in working hours from 54 to 48 hours a week and an adjustment of the pay level to take account of the risks inherent in their job, and may stage a protest later this month. Their demands have been fuelled by the death of two firemen in a fire in Mong Kok last month. Correctional Services officers are also seeking a reduction of their working hours.