Hong Kong police

Hong Kong police groups accuse civil service bosses of ageism as row over retirement age resurfaces

Two staff associations say half the men and women serving in the 28,000 force are being denied the right to work for five more years under controversial government proposal

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 February, 2018, 8:54pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 February, 2018, 11:04pm

Rank and file police in Hong Kong have accused civil service chiefs of “ageism” over a controversial government proposal under which only those who entered public service between June 2000 and May 2015 would be allowed to extend their retirement date.

Two staff associations, which together represent the vast bulk of Hong Kong’s 28,000 police officers say the plan – unveiled as part of a public consultation exercise – effectively denies half the men and women currently serving in the force the right to defer retirement.

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The reaction is the latest salvo in a war of words which has raged for several years between police staff associations and the government over the right of officers to extend their retirement age to 60 from 55.

Earlier this month, the government launched a consultation over whether civil servants – who started work between June 2000 and May 2015 – should be allowed to voluntarily extend their retirement date.

The consultation followed Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s 2017 policy address, in which she suggested that government staff at civilian and disciplined services grades could choose to retire an extra five years later – at 65 and 60 respectively.

The measure is intended to respond to the challenge of Hong Kong’s ageing population and its shrinking labour force.

The paper says that if all eligible civil servants choose to extend their retirement, then – by the time all of them have retired by 2057 – the government would have to pay HK$5.8 billion (US$743 million) more into their Mandatory Provident Fund schemes.

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While welcoming the move as good for officers who joined the force after June 2000, Detective Chief Inspector Ron Abbott, chairman of the Overseas Inspectors’ Association (OIA), said: “Based on the Civil Service Bureau’s own statistics for the strength of the civil service, including the police, it would appear that just over 50 per cent of police officers could benefit from this.

“It smacks of age discrimination and the same arguments being used for retaining the post-2000 officers, for example, retention of experience, could equally be used – and perhaps even more so – for those who joined prior to 2000.

“The secretary for the civil service has now admitted that there shouldn’t be an issue with promotion blockage, something we have been telling the bureau and police management for many years.”

Abbott went on to say that the claim made on radio by lawmaker and former security chief Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee that all civil servants recruited prior to 2000 were on “permanent and pensionable” terms of service was simply untrue.

“A number of such pre-2000 officers, myself included, are not on pensionable terms but on MPF agreement terms,” Abbott said. “The irony is that, when it comes to its own employees, the government’s solution to the ageing crisis appears to be to discriminate against the aged!”

Abbott, who is chairman of the OIA, Hong Kong’s oldest police staff association, which was formed in 1947, added: “We urge the government yet again, to bring the extension of the retirement age on a voluntary basis to all serving police officers.”

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Joe Chan, who heads the 23,000-strong Junior Police Officer’s Association, backed Abbott’s comments.

“Yes, he is right, the fact is that age discrimination is there. The bureau denies this and says it is simply following contractual terms. We welcome the new proposal but it creates an unfair system. It also deprives the pre-2000 officers the right to work until 60. We therefore suggest the proposal should be extended to all officers in the force,” Chan said.

By last night the bureau had not responded to questions.