Firefighters make sit-in threat in hours dispute
Firefighters will step up their industrial action by staging a sit-in protest unless the government provides details of how it plans to implement a reduction in their working hours by the end of next week.
The Fire Services Department Staffs General Association has been engaged in a work-to-rule protest - not carrying out clerical, cleaning or security duties - since the start of this month in the latest stage of a 23-year battle to have their working week reduced from 54 hours to 48 hours.
But the association has accused the department of trying to block its action by asking firefighters planning to work to rule to sign statements.
'The department asked staff who want to join the industrial action to sign statements and we've been stopped from entering a fire station to settle a quarrel arising from this arrangement,' said Tse Sau-lung, deputy chairman of the association.
A department spokeswoman said the statements were collected to help it work out whether the action would affect emergency services.
She said the department had stopped association officials entering a station because it did not want any dispute to affect operations, when no consensus had been reached on what activities were covered by the work-to-rule protest.
But Tse said the department's response to its industrial action had been disappointing and it had not come up with a plan to reduce working hours since its meeting with the union, the Security Bureau and Civil Service Bureau early last month.
Tse said the association had planned a three-day sit-in protest in September outside government headquarters in Admiralty.
But if the department fails to produce a road map for reduced working hours by the end of next week, it may bring the protest forward.
Firefighters have rejected a reduced working week of 51 hours on the grounds that it would cut staffing on night shifts