Pools, beaches face closure over strike
Some swimming facilities are likely to be closed on Monday when up to 1,000 lifeguards are expected to go on strike against a government decision to outsource management and services of swimming pools and beaches.
The Hong Kong and Kowloon Lifeguards' Union earlier said 800 to 1,000 guards would join the protest at Repulse Bay on August 1.
Speaking after a meeting with the Community Sports Committee yesterday, deputy director of leisure and cultural services Alan Siu Yu-bun said some facilities could be closed, depending on how many lifeguards reported for duty.
'We will obtain all sorts of support to provide sufficient and safe service to the public. But if there are not enough lifeguards to provide service, we might have to close down some of our facilities,' he said.
The department has already contacted various organisations including the Auxiliary Medical Services and Hong Kong Life Saving Society to ask for volunteer lifeguards. But Mr Siu admitted it would be difficult for them to mobilise enough manpower on short notice.
He said an early announcement of closures will be made through the media and websites.
Red flags will also fly and announcements will be made at beaches where there might not be enough lifeguards on duty.
'We are still assessing the situation and we do not want to predict how many swimming pools and beaches will be affected,' Mr Siu said.
'We will inform the public about what kinds of facilities need to be closed as soon as we can, and we will take every measure to ensure the public safety at beaches and swimming pools.'
The department said it would continue to contract out services at new facilities in the future under the condition that job opportunities of existing staff members would not be affected. It cited the Tai Kok Tsui Water Sports Centre as an example of successfully combining an outsourced management and current lifeguards.
'These are entirely new facilities [for] which we do not have any staff or creation of new posts to carry out the management work, and therefore we have to outsource our facilities according to our present policy. We have already outsourced 10 sports centres on such a basis,' Mr Siu said.
He said the department had looked at various options to provide services and favoured outsourcing facilities because it was cost-effective. The department would also set up a taskforce to monitor the performance of contractors to maintain high standards of public service.
The department will meet the lifeguards' union today.
The Hong Kong and Kowloon Lifeguards' Union, which is supporting the strike, was unavailable for comment yesterday.