Now is not the time to talk about a pay cut for undersecretaries and political assistants, Executive Council convenor Leung Chun-ying says. His remark came after political parties called for a pay freeze or pay cut for the appointees. An appointment committee headed by Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen will soon announce whether the salaries of the nine undersecretaries and nine political assistants will be adjusted. 'It is not time to talk about a pay cut,' Leung said. 'In the government team, the pay levels of different positions are linked with one another.' The monthly salaries of bureau undersecretaries range from HK$197,453 to HK$211,557, while those of political assistants range from HK$126,933 to HK$155,139. Their salaries were cut by 5.38 per cent under a voluntary pay-cut proposal in June last year, when the government announced a reduction of the same percentage in senior civil servants' pay. Leung said the government should use high salaries to attract and retain appointees. Pay levels in the industrial, commercial and professional sectors were now rising, especially in the senior ranks. The correct attitude was that the government should use a higher salary - although it very often could not be higher than what private enterprises offered - to attract and retain talent, he said. 'We have to acknowledge that there is a shortage of political talent in Hong Kong. For those who aspire to take up political careers, we should encourage them to do so. 'As the saying goes, the government is too hot a kitchen and most people are unwilling to enter it. But at the same time, we have high expectations of the government team.' The performances of undersecretaries and political assistants have been constantly queried by legislators since their positions were created two years ago. The Democratic Party has called for a pay cut, while the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong said their pay levels should be frozen. On Tuesday, the Liberal Party urged the administration to consider replacing poor performers in the team, citing an opinion survey which found that 68.9 per cent of 412 respondents gave the appointees 'fail' scores. The DAB has three members serving as political appointees and the Liberals have one. Leung said the performances of the appointees could be reviewed. 'We should look at things pragmatically. If there is dissatisfaction with their performances, we can discuss how they can improve, and the officials concerned should make their best effort to improve.' By last month, all ministers had submitted appraisals of their deputies and political assistants to the appointment committee, which will decide on any pay adjustments. Leung Chau-ting, chairman of the Federation of Civil Service Unions, urged the government to introduce a transparent mechanism to review the salaries of all appointees, like the current review system for civil servants' pay. 'The Standing Commission on Civil Service Salaries and Conditions of Service operates transparently,' he said. 'The annual pay trend survey is also an open procedure, and the public can monitor whether the survey method is fair. 'But what about the review on the salaries of undersecretaries and political assistants? We don't know what criteria are being used.'