Eighty per cent of disciplined services officers and nearly half of directorate-level civil service officials are set for pay rises - costing the government an extra HK$807 million. The increases follow approval by the Chief Executive-in-Council yesterday of grade-structure reviews for the two groups despite continuing economic gloom and a proposed 5.38 per cent pay cut for senior government officials. Civil Service minister Denise Yue Chung-yee said the decision 'aims to strike a reasonable balance between civil servants' aspirations on the one hand and wider community interests, including fiscal prudence, on the other'. The Civil Service Bureau said that the proposals would be submitted to the Legislative Council 'as soon as possible'. Discontent has simmered in the ranks of police and other disciplined services since June when the government proposed the pay cut but refused to implement the review recommendations for a pay rise released in November, citing the unstable economy. Police at one stage threatened a street protest. Yue said the decision had nothing to do with 'any alleged threats by specific disciplined forces'. The grade structure reviews, which look at salaries at different levels, are separate from the annual salary review. She said the government was happy to note that the economy was back on a stable and normal track, and the decision was fair and objective. About 80 per cent of the 52,000 disciplined officers, including police, fire services, immigration, Customs and Excise, Correctional Services, Government Flying Services and the Independent Commission Against Corruption, will get a pay rise. Rank-and-file officers will benefit most, accounting for HK$785 million of the extra cost. The maximum salary of a sergeant will rise 5.5 per cent from HK$28,785 to HK$30,370 a month. The pay of a senior superintendent will rise by 3.3 per cent, from HK$97,545 to HK$100,780. A senior immigration assistant will get 2.8 per cent more, with pay rising from HK$24,760 to HK$25,460. All increases are backdated to the start of this financial year on April 1. A special arrangement will be put in place for calculating the pension benefits of civil servants covered by the review who retired between November 27 last year, when the reports were released, and March 31. The government estimates these will cost an extra HK$40 million. Following approval of reviews for directorate salaries and conditions, the veterinary officer grade and non-directorate legal grades, a head of department will get a 3 per cent pay rise from HK$181,450 to HK$186,900. Nearly half of the directorate-grade officers - 480 of 1,100 - will benefit at a cost of HK$22 million a year. Staff representatives on the Disciplined Services Consultative Council said they were satisfied with the decision. But one, Ngai Sik-shui, was disappointed that police pay would still be higher than other services. Staff representatives on the Police Force Council said it was a step in the right direction to improve the lot of mid-career officers in junior ranks. But long-term problems such as the mechanism for comparing police pay with other services, and the retirement age, remained to be addressed. 'While today's decision may allay some staff concerns, it is clear that the recommendations are more a product of these economic times than a blueprint for the police force beyond the short term,' said David Williams, chairman of the Overseas Police Inspectors' Association. The representatives expected the report would not be welcomed by officers in the command ranks, as they saw no substantive progress or support in the report. Other civil service groups had mixed reactions. So Ping-chi, chairman of the Senior Government Officers' Association, said the decision would boost morale among civil servants. 'The number of directorate rank civil servants who can benefit from a resulting pay rise is small. 'Yet the meaning of the government decision is big. It is publicly recognising that senior civil servants are paid less than those holding similar jobs in the private market.' But Li Kwai-yin, vice-president of the Chinese Civil Servants' Association, said the government had been unfair to staff in civilian grades, of whom 40 per cent held positions without comparable jobs in the private sector. 'There aren't similar jobs with those in disciplinary forces either, and the Civil Service Bureau still managed to review their pay structure. We have been demanding a review of civilian grades, too, but the bureau has refused to do so. It is discriminatory.' Chinese University political scientist Ma Ngok said the pay rises for some civil servants would affect the morale of those who would not benefit. The government is seeking Legco's approval to reduce the salary of senior civil servants by 5.38 per cent, while the pay of lower-band and middle-band staff would be frozen. Ma said: 'If the pay cut applied to everyone, it might be easier to accept. Now, directorate civil servants will benefit from a pay rise, and so will many workers in the private sector because of an expected economic recovery. The proposed pay cut will become even more controversial.'