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Hong Kong MTR

Hong Kong rail unions brand MTR’s 3.9 per cent pay rise ‘disappointing’

Union members set to meet to discuss possible action against city’s rail giant after previously asking for an increase of 7 to 8 per cent

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 July, 2018, 5:33pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 July, 2018, 10:59pm

Hong Kong’s embattled MTR Corporation on Wednesday announced a pay rise of 3.9 per cent for more than half of its staff, a rate described as “disappointing” by rail unions who may take further action against the small adjustment.

The pro-government Hong Kong Federation of Railway Trade Unions, which represents 4,000 MTR workers in four unions, warned that it needed to consult its members about what action they would take to express their anger about the pay rise.

“We are very unhappy about the level of this year’s pay rise. This is far from satisfactory,” said federation vice-chairman Tam Kin-chiu.

“We need to hold a meeting immediately to consult our members before deciding what action we should take. The options range from refusing to do overtime or working to rule to refusing to attend the company’s activities,” he said.

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The federation has asked for an overall pay increase of 7 to 8 per cent with the overnight allowance being restored to the 2003 pre-Sars outbreak level – 50 per cent of an employee’s daily pay – from the current 35 per cent. According to Tam, MTR Corp failed to respond to these two demands.

The rail operator announced its pay review results for more than 17,000 staff in Hong Kong amid rising tensions from railway staff over better wage benefits and an image crisis over shoddy work and glitches at two major railway projects – the HK$97.1 billion Sha Tin-Central link and the cross-border high-speed rail link. Last year the average staff pay rise was 3.8 per cent.

For about 55 per cent of the staff who achieved a passing grade three, they will have a pay rise of 3.9 per cent. For those who achieved grade four and five, they will see a wage increase of 4.7 per cent and 5.9 per cent respectively. Those who obtained grade three or above will have an annual bonus of 1.3 times their monthly wage.

Frontline staff will get an additional increase of at least HK$300 per month.

The rail operator, which recorded a 64 per cent rise in net profits last year to HK$16.8 billion (US$2.14 billion), just introduced a fare rise of 3.14 per cent based on its annual fare adjustment mechanism.

In a statement issued after the pay adjustment announcement, the federation called for the rail giant to respond to their demands, saying MTR staff should not share the loss incurred by the rail operator’s management wrongdoings.

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“It is with regrets that the MTR Corp has neglected the contribution of its staff over all these years and failed to restore the night shift allowances to the previous level,” it said.

It complained that over the past 10 years the annual pay rise has stayed close to the inflation level at a few per cent, meaning that after offsetting inflation, MTR staff had not had any increase in real terms in all these years.

Earlier the federation had requested Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan Fan, a non-executive board member of the MTR Corp, step in and bring the unions’ demands to the company for the first time.