My Take

Hong Kong's public hospital doctors deserve a fair pay deal

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 October, 2015, 2:17am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 October, 2015, 2:17am

The government may have delinked the civil service pay scale from most aided agencies in the past decade. But it does not mean workers in those agencies stop looking at civil service pay rises as a reference or benchmark - often with envy and anger.

The one group that ought to have increases that match is public doctors. After all, their morale really is a life-and-death issue, unlike the much-advertised morale problem within the civil service.

The doctors are now threatening a mass protest tomorrow because their employer, the Hospital Authority, refuses to match the 3 per cent rise being offered to senior civil servants and backdated a year. If our arrogant and mediocre bureaucrats deserve a rise, surely our overworked doctors in the public sector should get one too. The public sector employs just 40 per cent of local doctors, who have to treat 90 per cent of our patients.

The linked pay scale was a long-standing practice under the British colonial government. But after the 1997 handover delinking was instituted, mostly as an excuse to enable those agencies to pay workers less. As a result, the pay and perks of employees at aided agencies have failed to keep up with civil servants, or at least those at the middle and senior levels of government.

The 3 per cent extra pay stems from a survey for the civil service conducted every six years to compare salaries with the private sector. Civil servants enjoy this special privilege, which is that their pay and benefits should reflect those in the private sector - a self-serving arrangement if ever there was one.

The public doctors have a good case. After all, when civil servants had a slight pay cut in 2009, the Hospital Authority asked its staff for a similar cut as well. Now its spokesmen say civil servants' pay has nothing to do with its own doctors' pay.

Professor Sophia Chan Siu-chee, the undersecretary for food and health, has admitted doctors' morale is a serious issue. The authority has scheduled meetings with doctors' representatives later this week. They should make a good-faith effort to negotiate a reasonable rise. Then, as a long-term measure, devise a fair pay scale that is at least commensurate with that of civil servants.