Lifeguards to strike on Monday after talks fail

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 July, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 July, 2005, 12:00am

Up to 1,000 lifeguards at public pools and beaches will go ahead with a strike on Monday after failing to reach a settlement yesterday over a government plan to outsource management.

Hong Kong and Kowloon Life Guards' Union vice-chairman Alex Kwok Siu-kit said about 800 to 1,000 lifeguards were expected to join the one-day protest. He apologised to the public for any inconvenience.

'Most lifeguards are employed on a contract basis as non-civil servants or as part-timers. They are hoping they will become permanent staff, but outsourcing kills their hope,' he said.

'We do not trust the department as it is clear that it wants to replace us all with outsourcing. They will introduce a retirement plan for long-serving staff and hire more part-timers and gradually outsource all its facilities.

'It takes time to develop team spirit and years of experience, which are required to do our job well. Our work is about life and death. The department cannot just ask different people to work as temporary staff at different times and expect the service quality to remain the same.'

Leisure and Cultural Services director Anissa Wong Sean-yee said she was disappointed the union had not called off its action.

'I have repeatedly appealed to all lifeguards to stay on duty and abandon their proposed strike to avoid disruption of public services. To my great disappointment, the union has declined to do so.

'They should not make moves to disrupt public services as a means of expressing their opinion, and they should demonstrate their professionalism and report for duty on August 1,' she said after meeting the union.

Ms Wong said outsourcing management and services at new swimming facilities would not affect existing staff and service quality.

'Their employment and job opportunities will not be affected. All outsourced facilities will be under close scrutiny and monitoring of the department. Contractors' service standards will be under our close supervision,' she said.

Of the 1,600 lifeguards employed by the department, about 400 are permanent staff, and 400 are on contracts. About 800 temporary lifeguards are hired on a seasonal basis, their employment periods lasting from one to four months.

The union proposed freezing the outsourcing plan and setting up a working group to discuss manpower with the department, but its request was rejected.

The department is still assessing what disruption the strike will cause at swimming pools and beaches, warning some may have to be closed.

It has asked the Auxiliary Medical Service and Life Saving Society for volunteer lifeguards.



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