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Hundreds of expats protest as salaries slashed

Heather Du Quesnay's honeymoon in her new job in Hong Kong came to an end after the former head of Britain's National College for School Leadership released plans to slash pay for English Schools Foundation teachers.

Ms Du Quesnay, ESF chief executive, has come under stinging attack from teachers in her efforts to reform the organisation which runs 20 British-style schools and kindergartens, which are partly state-funded.

She has proposed savings in staff costs of 10 per cent, to be achieved by a 5 per cent pay cut, halving incentive allowances paid to more than two-thirds of teachers, and reducing other expatriate perks. This follows a 4.4 per cent pay cut last year.

Ms Du Quesnay said the cuts were necessary because ESF salaries had been "out of control" after the ESF had chosen to ignore pay trends in the past.

But teachers have rejected the proposals, with more than 300 turning up at ESF headquarters last week to deliver 622 letters of protest.

There are about 800 teaching staff in the ESF.

The cuts follow public censure from Hong Kong's Audit Commission and legislators over the ESF's management. Secretary for Education Arthur Li Kwok-cheung has also threatened to remove the ESF's public funding, which accounts for 27 per cent of its income, unless it reforms.

Auditors last year found pay and benefits for ESF teachers and principals averaged HK$947,400 (pound;69,000) a year in 2003-04, compared with $391,000 to $813,000 in seven international schools.

But a remuneration study group set up by the ESF concluded teachers were no better off than those in the UK and did not recommend a pay cut.

Julian Harniess, chairman of the Association of Professional Teachers in ESF Schools, said the damage would be "incalculable" for staff recruitment and retention. But Ms Du Quesnay, said ESF teachers would still be the best paid in Hong Kong.

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