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LCQ1: Remuneration packages for disciplined services staff
     Following is a question by the Hon Michael Tien and a reply by the Secretary for the Civil Service, Mr Joshua Law, in the Legislative Council today (January 24):

     Some disciplined services staff have relayed to me that it has been nearly 10 years since the Government last conducted a comprehensive review of the salary structures of disciplined services, and during this period, the pressure and difficulties encountered by them when they discharge duties have grown day by day. In reply to a question raised by me on February 8 last year, the Government indicated that it would "consider whether GSRs (Grade Structure Reviews) 'for disciplined services' are justified to be conducted under the existing policy framework", but no progress has been reported since then. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the respective numbers of applicants for positions in the various disciplined services in each of the past five years; whether it has studied how such numbers of job applications relate to the job duties of and remuneration packages for the various disciplined services; if so, of the details; if not, whether it will conduct such a study;
(2) as it is learnt that seven fire personnel and five police officers died on duty in the past 10 years, illustrating that fire safety work is no less dangerous than police work, but the remuneration packages for fire personnel are inferior to those for police officers (who are remunerated on the independent Police Pay Scale) of comparable ranks, how the Government responds to the demand for a review of fire personnel's salary structure, which fire personnel and unions have, over the years, been striving for; and
(3) of the details and progress of the study carried out by the Government on whether GSRs for disciplined services are justified to be conducted; whether the Government will commence GSRs for disciplined services shortly, with a view to responding to the aspirations of disciplined services and the public on improving the remuneration packages for disciplined services staff; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
     The Government fully recognises the efforts and contribution of colleagues in the disciplined services, especially those on the front line who have all along stayed committed to their duties, upholding law and order as well as rescuing people in distress.
     As with all other civil servants, the Government's pay policy for the disciplined services is to offer sufficient remuneration to attract, retain and motivate individuals of suitable calibre to join and serve continuously in the services. Following this policy principle, the Government determines appropriate salaries for disciplined services staff under the existing Improved Civil Service Pay Adjustment Mechanism and keeps under review their conditions of service and benefits, so as to offer a remuneration package that can attract and retain talent effectively to provide quality and professional services to the public.
     In addition, we understand that disciplined services staff have to face ever-changing circumstances and challenges in performing their duties. To ensure that they have adequate manpower and equipment for meeting different operational needs, the Government provides them with the required resources in accordance with the established mechanism. With regard to manpower, a total of about 6 800 posts have been created in various disciplined services over the past decade, and the total establishment of the relevant departments have increased by about 11%. We have also taken a host of measures for the disciplined services, including the introduction and enhancement of various job-related allowances, reduction in conditioned hours of work, improvement of housing benefits and implementation of construction projects of disciplined services quarters, with a view to keeping abreast of the times the conditions of service and benefits of the disciplined services. These are also important for attracting and retaining disciplined services staff, as well as boosting their morale.
     Furthermore, if there are proven and persistent recruitment and retention difficulties, or if there are fundamental changes in the job nature, level of responsibilities and job complexity of any grade, the Government will consider conducting a Grade Structure Review (GSR) for the grade according to the existing policy.
     Having consulted relevant bureau, I now give a consolidated reply to the various parts of the question as follows:
(1) The respective numbers of applicants for positions in various disciplined services in each of the past five years are set out in the Annex. Overall speaking, the number of applicants for disciplined services positions each year far exceeded the target recruitment number. For instance, the number of applicants was 30 times the target recruitment number in 2016, indicating keen competition for the positions. This reflected to a certain extent the attractiveness of the remuneration and benefits of the disciplined services.
(2) As regards the remuneration package for personnel in the Fire Services Department (FSD), I wish to point out that each disciplined service is unique and it is not advisable to compare them directly. Regarding the suggestion of a GSR for FSD, what is important is whether the Department is facing genuine and persistent difficulties in recruitment and retention, and whether there have been any significant or fundamental changes in the job nature of personnel of individual grades of FSD. We will continue to maintain close communication with the management and staff side of FSD, and consider the justifications for conducting a GSR for the Department with respect to the relevant policy guidelines. At the same time, we will examine the problems faced by various grades of the Department. The aim is to introduce measures that are operationally necessary and practicable for alleviating the difficulties and pressures encountered by FSD personnel in their day-to-day work and for enhancing safety. Specifically, FSD has been given approval to create a total of more than 1 400 disciplined grade posts over the past decade and the overall establishment of the Department has increased by close to 15%. In terms of facilities and equipment, apart from the Fire and Ambulance Services Academy which came into operation in early 2016 to enhance training for fire and ambulance personnel, each year the Government allocates funding to provide better equipment, vehicles, vessels, operational tools and protective clothing for FSD staff to ensure their safety and efficiency while performing duties. On staff benefits, the Government has in the past few years introduced and improved job-related allowances for FSD staff, which cover such duties as high angle rescue, handling of hazardous materials, as well as urban, mountain and underwater search and rescue operations, in recognition of the special skills possessed by staff of various specialised teams. The Government will also seek funding from this Council as soon as possible for the construction of FSD disciplined services quarters at Pak Shing Kok, Tseung Kwan O to cater for the housing needs of FSD staff.
(3) As mentioned above, according to the existing policy, the Government will consider conducting GSR for individual grades if they meet the established criteria. However, GSR is not a panacea for all kinds of manpower-related issues. It is equally important to improve on human resources management measures. We will continue to closely monitor the situation of the disciplined services and maintain good communication with both the management and staff side of the relevant departments. We will follow up on their suggestions for GSR in a fair and impartial manner, as well as to explore the best ways to handle the issues that they face.

     President, we have always been proud of our professional and effective civil service of which the disciplined forces are an integral part. Members of our disciplined services are never daunted by hardship and are always courageous and committed in carrying out their duties. I would like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude for their efforts. We will maintain close contact with the management and staff side of the disciplined services and relevant bureaux to discuss and follow up on matters of common interest.
Ends/Wednesday, January 24, 2018
Issued at HKT 13:00
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