Lifeguards to strike on Sunday's sports day
Danny Mok and Jennifer Ngo
Lifeguards at Hong Kong's pools and beaches will go on strike on Sunday, to back their calls that a further 400 lifeguards be hired, their union announced yesterday.
Sunday is the city's official Sport For All Day, when free recreational and sports programmes are organised and most fee-charging sports facilities waive their charges.
'Our experiences have shown us that the [pools and beaches] will definitely be full of people, and we will not have enough manpower to handle it,' said union general secretary Alex Kwok Siu-kit. 'The [Leisure and Cultural Services] Department is being irresponsible.'
Kwok expects around 800 lifeguards to go on strike. The department has 1,900 lifeguards on duty.
Twenty members of the Hong Kong and Kowloon Life Guards' Union protested outside the government headquarters in Admiralty, yesterday, against manpower cuts since 2004. The union had been demanding an extra 400 lifeguards be hired.
A spokesman for the Leisure and Cultural Services Department said the government was formulating a contingency plan. It included seeking assistance from The Hong Kong Life Saving Society and various clubs for volunteer lifeguards, to serve at affected beaches and pools on Sunday. Temporary lifeguards will be hired at swimming pools, to keep them open.
The department may close swimming pools if there are too few lifeguards on Sunday, because the public's safety is the top priority, the spokesman said. Red flags will be hoisted to warn swimmers away from the sea if too few lifesavers are on duty to ensure safety.
He said the department would continue discussions with the union, asking lifeguards to 'put the public interest at the forefront and stand steadfast in their duties' on Sunday.
The last lifeguard strikes were in 2005, when 500 lifeguards refused to work on August 1, forcing 11 beaches and two swimming pools to close.