Backdown rescues lifeguards

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 September, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 September, 2003, 12:00am

Lifeguards are basking in victory after the government agreed to scrap plans to contract out the management of eight public swimming pools to private firms.

The Leisure and Cultural Services Department made the announcement yesterday after meeting leaders of the Hong Kong and Kowloon Lifeguards' Union.

The union had threatened to strike tomorrow - the National Day public holiday - when tens of thousands of swimmers are expected to flood public swimming pools. It planned to hold a cross-harbour swim tomorrow to protest. Now the estimated 300 lifeguards will go ahead with the swim, but as a celebration instead, starting at 11am.

The union's acting president, Alex Kwok Siu-kit, said: 'There will be no more industrial action from our side and I'm very pleased that the government has finally chosen to listen to our point of view. We now can go back to work knowing that things will be the same as before.'

Lifeguards were worried that private firms would cut their wages and lay off about 400 part-time and contracted guards.

A departmental spokesman confirmed that it had accepted the union's counter-proposal to freeze hiring as an alternative to cost-cutting. 'We now plan to resolve the issue through streamlining and the rationalisation of the manning structure of lifeguards,' he said.