Lifeguards wary of offer to provide new skills

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 August, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 August, 2005, 12:00am

Lifeguards are unimpressed by a plan to offer them training in new skills that could help them find other jobs.

Their union sees it as another attempt by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department to get rid of them as it outsources more swimming pool services.

On Monday about 10 beaches and two pools were closed after hundreds of lifeguards held a strike to protest about the outsourcing.

'The department treats us like a burden,' said the vice-chairman of the Hong Kong and Kowloon Life Guards' Union, Alex Kwok Siu-kit.

'They want to kick us out by equipping us with more skills so that we can look for work outside the government.'

He was responding a day after director Anissa Wong Sean-yee said the department was planning to offer 'added value' courses in skills that would enable lifeguards to work as instructors at water sports centres.

She said the department would also consider introducing early retirement if the union wanted it.

Mr Kwok said the lifeguards were willing to learn new skills related to their work and upgrade their professionalism, but not so they could change jobs.

'The government cannot just outsource our work by seemingly helping us find jobs outside as it has done to cleaners who used to work for the Housing Department.

'It is easy to supervise cleaners, and workers can do the cleaning again if their service is not up to standard. But our work is about saving lives, and there is no second chance when it comes to lifesaving.'

The union said it would like to take up more work and training related to lifesaving, such as holding seminars in schools during winter to teach about water safety.

'We also suggested doing more voluntary work at charity functions where lifesaving services were needed. But our requests were all rejected,' Mr Kwok said.