Hong Kong unions fuming over proposed pay increase

Proposed pay increases for Hong Kong civil service workers are in line with the private sector, yet unions are still up in arms.

Hong Kong unions are up in arms after a study recommended pay increases for civil service workers more than one percent below last year’s proposed raise, despite being in line with the private sector.

An annual government study released this week recommended pay increases between 3.02% and 4.12% for civil service workers, but unionists have hit back demanding an increase of 6%, stating that workers’ morale would plunge if the proposed rates went ahead.

Last year’s proposed pay increase for civil servants was 5.96%.

The study surveyed pay trends at 105 private companies of various scales, covering a total of 167,000 employees over the 12-month period to April 1 this year.

Recommendations from the study included pay increases of 3.42% for higher-earning civil service personnel, 4.12% for those in the middle and 3.02% for lower earners.

Managing director of AMAC Human Resources Consultants Alexa Chow Yee-ping told the South China Morning Post the proposed pay increases this year were generous compared to those in the private market.

"For companies adjusting staff pay in March, the level could be as low as 1%," she said.

Figures released yesterday by the Hong Kong Institute of Human Resource Management (HKIHRM) showed the city’s employees received an overall base pay rise of 4.2% on average in January 2015, down by 0.3% when compared with the average base pay adjustment of 4.5% forecasted in October last year.

The survey covered 64 companies involving a total of some 91,800 full-time salaried employees.

“Among the 36 surveyed companies that usually conduct a base pay review during February to October, 47.2% took a wait-and-see approach and did not provide any budgeted adjustment forecast at the time of the survey," said David Li, president of the HKIHRM.

Hong Kong Senior Government Officers Association chairman Dr Chan Sai-king said the proposed rise was not even in line with inflation, which was at 4.5% in March.

And Li Wee-wee, a government staff union representative at the Model Scale 1 Staff Consultative Council, described it as a “total disappointment”.

“The low pay rise will be a fatal blow to the already very low staff morale."

But HKIHRM president Li said overall employers held a positive outlook for the labour market in 2015, with close to 72% of the surveyed companies anticipating a growth in demand in the labour market.

"With a relatively low unemployment rate of 3.3%, the employment market is expected to remain buoyant this year. Although salary is one of the key factors to motivate staff, employers should also pay attention to non-financial rewards and incentives such as career development opportunities and training programmes, and can consider adopting family-friendly employment practices to help staff achieve work-life balance as strategies to attract and retain talent."

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