Senior doctors at public hospitals have won their fight for the same 3 per cent pay rise other senior public servants get, with the Hospital Authority bowing to pressure from the biggest protest by medical workers in eight years.
The 28-strong board of the authority voted "unanimously" yesterday to grant its 2,000-odd senior public doctors the salary demand, its chairman, Professor John Leong Chi-yan, said. The vote came a day after 1,300 doctors staged a sit-in at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Yau Ma Tei.
The rare protest had seen the health minister and the authority's top leader turn up to listen to their appeal.
"We welcome the initial positive response from the authority," said Dr Pierre Chan Pui-yin, president of protest organiser the Public Doctors' Association.
Details of the arrangement would be discussed within a month, Leong said.
Earlier this month, the public-funded authority decided against upping the wages of its senior employees, including administrators, in line with the 3 per cent for senior civil servants that was based on the civil service's 2013 pay-level survey report.
That once-every-six-years adjustment is in addition to annual pay revisions.
The authority had said that applying the percentage increase to more than 3,000 senior staff members would cost the authority an additional HK$200 million a year.
It is receiving HK$49 billion from the government for its activities this financial year.
On Thursday, Leong said all the board members - including two government officials - approved the pay rise proposal.
The board also agreed in principle that the authority should meet the extra expenses using its own funds, as Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man had stated on the day of the protest.
Leong said the organisation would step up a review of its finances and work out how far the additional payments should backdated, in the light of senior civil servants having theirs backdated to last October.
He believed the payment arrangements could be confirmed on November 19 at the earliest, during the authority's general meeting.
Chan said that until that meeting, the association would hold off on any further industrial action, which he had previously threatened to launch if the authority did not respond to their demand by November 1.
He called for the higher salaries to take effect from October last year.
The authority's chief executive, Dr Leung Pak-yin, said it had fiscal reserves of HK$3 billion.
He said it would have to consider whether the extra payouts every year would affect the sustainability of the reserves.
As to whether the authority should set up its own pay scale for doctors instead of referring to the government's salary grades, Leong said the subject would be discussed at a later stage.
Chan said the salary grades of public-sector medical professionals should remain pegged to those of the civil service, unless a mutually agreed mechanism could be established.