19 July 2019
Thousands of police officers have put in long hours amid the pro-democracy protests, which are now into their sixth week. Photo: Bloomberg
Thousands of police officers have put in long hours amid the pro-democracy protests, which are now into their sixth week. Photo: Bloomberg

Overtime pay adds up for police officers handling Occupy duties

Overtime pay for 7,000 police officers with frontline duties at the Occupy protest sites in Hong Kong has totaled up to at least HK$46.9 million (US$6.05 million) as of now, with some estimates pegging the figure to reach as much as HK$70 million, Ming Pao Daily News reported.

Pro-democracy protests, which are now into their sixth week, remain a big challenge for the police as the demonstrators require constant vigil to ensure peace and public order. 

It is believed that the additional budget sought by the police for the special “Solarpeak” campaign on handling the protests has been exhausted. The force must need to reallocate its internal resources or file a separate application for extra funding in order to sustain their operations.

Most of the 7,000 police officers were believed to have accumulated more than 60 hours of overtime work each last month, which is the maximum number of hours allowed for overtime work per month. Some officers are said to have clocked up as many as 100 hours of overtime work.

Democratic Party chief Emily Lau said it was unacceptable that police officers were asked to work back-to-back shifts for up to 40 hours in a row.

She acknowledged that the police had to attend to a large number of issues during the protests and that they should be paid for the extra hours they worked. If needed, the application for extra funding should be approved, Lau said, adding that the funding issue should not be linked to charges of abuse of power by the police.

Legislator Ip Kwok-him from the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) said the pro-establishment camp will support the application for funding at the Legislative Council. The lawmaker blasted the Occupy Central Movement for causing a rise in public spending at the expense of taxpayers.

A police spokesperson said the force will make the best possible staffing arrangements based on the needs of different operations, and will avoid asking officers to work overtime unless there are no other alternatives.

According to the police’s internal guidelines, compensation leave days will usually be given for overtime work. However, payment could also be given under special circumstances.

Sources said the stipulated maximum number of payable hours for overtime work is 60 for each police officer at present, while the hourly rate is 1/175 of their basic monthly salary, which means a junior police officer could receive up to HK$6,700 with 60 hours of overtime work.

Multiply that sum by 7,000 officers and we arrive at a total figure HK$46.9 million. Meanwhile, sources within the police say the amount could reach as much as HK$70 million if one assumes that the extra payment to each officer could be HK$10,000.

According to Legislative Council documents, the police’s overtime work spending during the 2005-06 year, when the World Trade Organization ministerial meeting took place in Hong Kong and when riot police clashed with South Korean demonstrators, was HK$123 million, up HK$36 million — or around 40 percent — from the previous year, the report said.

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