Friday, December 12, 2008

Grade Structure Reviews

The LegCo Panel on Public Service will discuss a paper on grade structure reviews on 15 December, next Monday. This is a very useful subject for HR managers as it is an essential topic of civil service human resource management. There are three reviews: one on the directorate, one on disciplined services and one on two civilian grades. If you are interested on the reviews, you can go to the JSSCS website to read the full reports. If you only have a little reading time, you can choose the read the LegCo paper which has a gist of the recommendations of the review reports.

The reports are published under the name of the Standing Committee on Directorate Salaries and Conditions of Service, the Standing Committee on Disciplined Services Salaries and Conditions of Service and the Standing Commission on Civil Service Salaries and Conditions of Service. But the reviews were conducted by a team of experienced executive officers in the JSSCS, or more accurately a team of retired officers. Grade structure review is a large and complex exercise which occurs infrequently at large interval. Under the present thinking of GGO, this is additional work of a temporary nature on a project basis which could be undertaken by NCSC staff. But where can you hire very experienced NCSC staff for such high level complex work. The only answer is the experienced retired officers who were engaged in previous grade structure review exercises. I must congratulate on a job well done. I also hope there were many serving officers working in the team, lest the experience would be lost with the retired officers really retiring.

The two civilian grades under review are the government lawyer grades and the veterinary officer grade. For the lawyer grades, there would be no improvement to the grade structure nor the pay scale. There are recommendations not related to the grade structure: viz. to conduct regular establishment reviews, to be more responsive to staff concerns about the working environment, to streamline and expedite the recruitment process, and to provide more continuing professional development opportunities. All these are applicable to all grades not under review.

I think it is very hard to compare the pay of a government lawyer to those in private practice. For a good lawyer in private practice, the reward could be astronomical. This is the same everywhere. For government lawyers, there is the commitment to serve for the justice of the people rather than the justice of the private clients.

The review report recommends that the starting pay of the Veterinary Officer rank should be raised by two points from MPS29 to MPS31. This would bring it on par to medical doctors. Two more recommendations are worthy of noting. One is the bonded traineeships to veterinary students in universities. This is actually the same practice some years ago in the form of government training scholarship which I think is quite feasible. Some serving officers are such government trainees. This could ensure a supply of veterinary officers for a few years, and increase the pool of veterinary surgeons in Hong Kong in the long run.

The other recommendation is to explore with local universities the desirability and feasibility of introducing veterinary training in Hong Kong. This is narrow thinking. Local universities should explore introducing academic subjects based on the need of Hong Kong rather than the recruitment difficulties of government officials. Hong Kong is a city with limited agriculture and husbandry. Its civilian veterinary needs are mainly on pets, plus some limited requirements by the Jockey Club and Ocean Park. With reasonable reward, Hong Kong people returning from overseas with veterinary training may be sufficient.

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