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Workers cross a road in Central on March 30. When HR experts and employers’ representatives object to a civil service pay rise, whose side are they really on? Photo: Felix Wong

LettersThere is a reason employers object to the civil service pay rise

  • Readers discuss why private sector representatives turn public sentiment against civil service pay rises, and why the government should raise the minimum wage
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Almost every year, when the pay trend survey is released suggesting a pay rise for the civil service, human resources experts and employers’ representatives make a lot of noise criticising the findings, the proposed increases, and the validity of the survey methodology – as if they were speaking for the general public, seeking fairness for them and helping to save their tax money. The public needs to look carefully at these critics and what their agenda is.

It is obvious that some employers would prefer not to acknowledge the pay rise suggestion, because that would raise expectations among employees which not all employers would like to meet. And on whose side do the HR experts stand? Is the HR manager’s job to help staff fight for a higher pay rise? Or is it to help the company get the best workers for the cheapest price, to increase profits? Would it also be the HR manager’s role to help the company implement lay-offs to cut costs when it wants to?

The public, comprising mostly employees, should bear this in mind when HR experts are attempting to divide the civil service and the public over pay trends and turn public sentiment against civil service pay rises.

I do, however, agree that the survey methodology is flawed. It is unfair and improper to compare civil service pay and private sector pay. There are many smart ways for companies to compensate their employees with benefits that are not recorded as wages, such as fancy gifts, staff discounts and medical insurance. Yes, these are difficult times, when employees in the private sector might be laid off or have their income drastically cut.

Is it fair to expect civil servants to absorb the damage? Is it wrong for the government to be a responsible employer and provide stability for its employees?

Cathay Pacific doesn’t deserve eye-rolling for seeking to rehire

Moreover, is it impossible for business owners and executives to share in the struggles of the workforce? The government puts its income in reserve instead of distributing profits to shareholders; and during hard times, it uses reserves to help the needy, including companies, through rescue schemes. But where do the handsome profits that corporations made during good times go? What does the fact that Hong Kong has one of the largest wealth gaps among the world’s developed economies say about income distribution in our society? Should the government do the same to its employees – suppress workers’ wages, and help maintain inequality?

This is not simply a debate about civil servant pay. It is about vested interests and broader social and economic issues plaguing our city.

Teresina Lee, Kam Tin

Minimum wage urgently needs raising

I refer to the article “Hong Kong NGO urges government to raise minimum wage, calls for annual review to keep up with inflation” ( May 30). During the pandemic, many people have lost their jobs. At the same time, goods have become more expensive.
Some Hongkongers have no or little discretionary income after paying rent and spending money on food and pandemic essentials like masks. Yet the minimum wage has been frozen at HK$37.50 per hour for three years.

Yes, the Hong Kong government has brought back the Consumption Voucher Scheme, which provides low-income households with more spending money in the short term. However, to improve their overall standard of living, raising the minimum wage may be a better long-term solution.

Thanks to the fifth wave of the pandemic, the Hong Kong economy shrank by 4 per cent in the first quarter of this year. It will take much more than a new round of HK$5,000 consumption vouchers to stimulate growth again.

Meanwhile, the issue of disparity grows ever more serious in Hong Kong, with the pandemic having exacerbated income, health and educational inequalities.

Thus, the government should not only increase the minimum wage to help low-income families, but also review it every year to keep pace with inflation.

Karen Lai, Tseung Kwan O