Agreement to hire extra lifeguards averts strike
Beach-goers and swimmers can breathe a sigh of relief. Lifeguards agreed to a last-minute deal with the government for extra staff and called off a strike planned for tomorrow.
The Hong Kong and Kowloon Life Guards' Union claimed victory yesterday after the Leisure and Cultural Services Department agreed to hire an extra of 50 lifeguards this summer to ease workloads.
Their planned strike would have disrupted Sport For All Day on Sunday, when most public sports facilities waive charges for users to encourage participation in sport.
Union spokesman Alex Kwok Siu-kit said the union was satisfied the department had shown sincerity in addressing its concerns, although lifeguards had called for an extra 400 staff to be hired.
The department's acting deputy director, Olivia Chan Yeuk-oi, yesterday promised a manpower review 'at the earliest possible' opportunity.
'The common objective of the department and the union is to provide services of the highest quality to members of the public,' she said. 'Both sides agreed that there is some room for adjustment in manpower.
The department will kick-start a ... comprehensive review at the earliest possible time.'
The union had threatened to strike because it claimed that the department had repeatedly ignored its calls for extra lifeguards to ease a manpower shortage.
It claimed staff had been cut by almost 30 per cent since 2004, despite the fact that more public swimming pools had opened.
Temporary lifeguards and volunteers from the Life Saving Society, who had been recruited to work tomorrow to cover the strike, will be kept on standby in anticipation of big crowds at pools and beaches.
Lifeguards last went on strike in August 1, 2005, when a stoppage by 500 members forced the closure of 11 beaches and two swimming pools.