LCQ7: Employment of construction and related engineering professionals by the Government

     Following is a question by the Dr Hon Lo Wai-kwok and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mr Paul Chan, in the Legislative Council today (January 27):


     Currently, several government departments (including the Planning Department, Housing Department, Civil Engineering and Development Department, Drainage Services Department, Water Supplies Department, Electrical and Mechanical Services Department, Transport Department, Highways Department and Environmental Protection Department) have employed persons of the construction and related engineering professions (the relevant professions). Some of those people are civil servants, while some others are employed on non-civil service contract (NCSC) terms. Some of these NCSC staff have relayed to me the fact that their remuneration packages which are inferior to those of civil servants who have comparable responsibilities (which means different pay for the same work), coupled with uncertain job prospects, have affected their morale. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) in each of the past five years, (i) of the respective numbers of NCSC staff and civil servants in the relevant professions who were employed by the aforesaid government departments, and (ii) among them, the number of NCSC staff who had been employed for five consecutive years or more;

(2) whether it has formulated specific plans to assist those NCSC staff who have relatively long service years and whose positions have long-term service needs in being appointed as civil servants; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(3) given that a number of infrastructure projects (including the Hong Kong section of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link project, as well as the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge Hong Kong Boundary Crossing Facilities and Hong Kong Link Road projects) in recent years have experienced delays, coupled with the occurrence of incidents in which drinking water samples were found to have a lead content exceeding the provisional guideline value set by the World Health Organization, whether the various government departments have plans to create more posts of the relevant professions and improve the remuneration packages for such professionals to retain talents, with a view to enhancing the planning and monitoring standards of the various projects; if they do, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



     My reply to the Dr Hon Lo Wai-kwok's question is as follows:

(1) Breakdowns of the number of civil service staff and full-time non-civil service contract (NCSC) staff in the construction and related engineering professions (the relevant professions, note 1) in the departments mentioned in the question, and the number of contract staff in the relevant professions in the Hong Kong Housing Authority (HA) (note 2) in the past five years are set out in Annexes 1 and 2 respectively.

(2) and (3) On increasing the manpower of the relevant professional grades, the Government's guiding principles for considering the creation of additional civil service posts are as follows: when the operational need is fully justified; and the work involved cannot be handled by streamlining the procedures, re-organisation, re-deployment of existing staff or any other means. The above principles are applicable across all the civil service grades, including relevant professional grades. Increased manpower will be arranged as and when it is fully justified on the grounds of maintaining effective operation and addressing the manpower needs arising from new and improved services, including enhancement of the planning and supervision standard for various works projects. In determining whether a contract position of NCSC/HA staff should be replaced by a civil service post, we have to ascertain whether the work involved is of a sufficiently permanent nature and whether it should more appropriately be handled by a civil servant.

     From 2013-14 to 2015-16, bureaux/departments were supported to create 711 civil service posts in the relevant professions. Among them, 130 posts were created to replace NCSC staff positions and 18 were to replace contract staff positions in the HA.

     Regarding the conversion of NCSC staff and the HA's contract staff into civil servants, the Government follows the established policy of selecting the most suitable persons to fill civil service vacancies through an open, fair and competitive process. As relevant working experience is one of the factors taken into account in the recruitment of civil servants, contract staff who meet the entry requirements do generally enjoy a competitive edge over other applicants because of their working experience in the Government. For the civil service open recruitment exercises held for the relevant professional grades (note 3) between January 2007 and August 2015, the average success rates for NCSC staff and other applicants were around 31 per cent and 7 per cent respectively. As for the relevant professional grades in the Housing Department (HD), the average success rates for the HA's contract staff and other applicants were around 90 per cent and 9 per cent respectively.

     As regards the remuneration packages for the civil service posts in the relevant professions, the Government will continue to implement the established civil service pay policy, which is to offer sufficient remuneration to attract, retain and motivate staff of suitable calibre to provide the public with effective and efficient service; and to ensure that the remuneration of these posts will be regarded as fair by both civil servants and the public they serve by maintaining broad comparability between civil service and private sector pay.

Note 1: The relevant professional grades in this reply refer to Architect, Building Services Engineer, Building Surveyor, Electrical and Mechanical Engineer, Electrical Engineer, Electronics Engineer, Engineer, Estate Surveyor, Geotechnical Engineer, Land Surveyor, Landscape Architect, Maintenance Surveyor, Mechanical Engineer, Planning Officer, Quantity Surveyor, Shift Charge Engineer, Structural Engineer, Town Planner, Cartographer, Chemist, Environmental Protection Officer and Waterworks Chemist.

Note 2: The HD is the executive arm of the HA. As a statutory organisation with financial autonomy, the HA employs contract staff under its own terms. As such, the HA's contract staff and the contract staff under the NCSC Staff Scheme belong to different categories.

Note 3: For the civil service open recruitment exercises launched and completed during this period, 159 exercises involved qualified applications from serving NCSC staff performing comparable duties to the ranks under recruitment. As for the HD, there were 10 exercises that involved qualified applications from serving contract staff of the HA performing comparable duties to the ranks under recruitment over the same period.

Ends/Wednesday, January 27, 2016
Issued at HKT 14:32