THE 10-month government localisation battle yesterday took a major step towards settlement with vital local support for new proposals allowing expatriates to switch to local terms. The new package maps out substantial interim and long-term measures governing the overseas officers' transfer to local conditions of service. The proposal allows expatriates to switch and keep their current salary but gives priority to locals in the filling of positions currently occupied by those set to transfer. When an expatriate transfers at the end of his contract, he could face a demotion of one rank if a local is deemed better suited. It is recommended in the long run, all positions will be open to all officers, competing on the same terms. The proposal suggests scrapping all perks previously enjoyed by expatriates, saving $9 million. And in what could be crucial to a final solution, the package has finally won favour from local union representatives and legislators. The Senior Non-expatriate Officers' Association (SNEOA) council member, Hui Kwok-hung, said after meeting the Secretary for Civil Service, Michael Sze Cho-cheung, yesterday: ''We find the package acceptable in principle.'' United Democrat legislator Cheung Man-kwong said: ''Major parties in the Legislative Council find the package worth consideration.'' Mr Cheung, also a member of the public services panel, said: ''We think it can fulfil three requirements - to continue the localisation policy, to transfer the overseas officers without causing them much hardship and help the public to save money.'' But Royston Griffey, of the Association of Expatriate Civil Servants, said: ''The suggested package is only a charade, an illusion, as we do not believe there will be genuine competition when a position is opened up.'' Mr Hui said: ''The proposal that all the expatriate officers may face the possibility of demotion is a major concession. ''In the previous proposal, only the 23 officers whose application to renew overseas contracts had been rejected before July 30 last year would be demoted. ''Besides, the suggestion that all expatriates, who have their contracts renewed and transferred, would not be eligible for promotion until positions were opened up for competition is a guarantee to the locals.'' For those unable to meet the transfer criteria, the administration will continue to exercise discretion in offering them overseas contracts or consultancies. All the suggested interim measures will be replaced by a long-term policy. The whole package will not apply to the two expatriate officers whose applications had been approved before the Public Officers Ordinance was enacted in December last year, freezing all fresh transfers. The ordinance was extended in April to July 6 when the Government failed to reach agreement with local unions over policies on localisation.