NGO chiefs enjoy hefty salaries Union accuses groups of wasting resources

SENIOR staff at social welfare organisations are making HK$380,000 more annually than civil servants of the same rank at the Social Welfare Department (社會福利署), according to a survey.
The Social Welfare Organisations Employees Union (社會福利機構員工會), using the annual reports of 66 social welfare organisations, investigated salaries for the 2016-17 fiscal year.
The union, an affiliate of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade (香港職工會聯盟), found that the senior staff at 15 of these groups were paid more than their counterparts at the department, despite holding the same rank.
The pay gap between these 15 nongovernment organisations (NGOs) and the department ranged from HK$3,750 to HK$380,000. The largest gap was recorded at the Heep Hong Society (協康會), where itschief social work officer is making HK$1.65 million annually – after deductions for Provident Fund and cash allowance – which is HK$180,000 to HK$380,000 more than the salary of a department officer doing the same job.
The union also found that some senior staff at 32 organisations were given lump sum cash allowances of HK$7.88 million in total.
Two chief social work officers at Po Leung Kuk (保良局) received the most cash – HK$767,000. Their annual salary is HK$1.57 million each, which is at least HK$110,000 more than department staff of the same rank.
The allowance has also been increasing over the years, from HK$508,555 in 2014-15 to HK$644,136 the following fiscal year.
Yau Chi-hang (邱智恆), chairman of the union, slammed the groups for allocating most of their resources to senior staff instead of sharing it with front-line employees.
“Many NGOs are fattening their top employees and emaciating their lesser ones with the Lump Sum Grant (整筆撥款) and there is simply no regulation in force to monitor the situation,” he said.
Yau said the starting wages for an assistant social work officer in social welfare organisations is about HK$20,000 on average, much lower than HK$30,320 at the department.
Organisations that receive HK$10 million or more each year from the government, amounting to more than 50 percent of its operating income, are required to disclose information such as the remuneration packages for staff in the top three tiers.
The union warned that the situation is just the tip of the iceberg as 100 social welfare organisations, including the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups (香港青年協會) – whose executive director received a HK$240,000 cash allowance in 2013-14 – are exempted from releasing senior staff salary reports.
It called on the government to urgently set up guidelines to restrict social welfare organisation staff from being paid more than civil servants of the same rank.

(This article is published on Student Standard on 13 April 2018)