Lifeguards to strike after contract talks fail

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 August, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 August, 2005, 12:00am

Hundreds of lifeguards will on Friday stage their second strike this month after negotiations with the government broke down yesterday.

The Leisure and Cultural Services Department said it would inform the public about beaches and pools affected by the half-day strike as soon as possible.

The Hong Kong and Kowloon Lifeguards' Union will strike from noon to 6.30pm on Friday. They will gather at the department's Sha Tin headquarters. The move follows the strike by about 500 lifeguards on August 1 at Repulse Bay, which led to the closure of 10 beaches and two pools.

'I think hundreds of our union members will join the planned strike against outsourcing which endangers public safety at swimming facilities,' union vice-chairman Alex Kwok Siu-kit said after the meeting with Secretary for Home Affairs Patrick Ho Chi-ping and lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan, the general secretary of the Confederation of Trade Unions.

'We are fighting for safe and reliable lifesaving services at swimming facilities,' Mr Kwok said.

'The truth is on our side. The government outsourcing policy should be blamed for causing public service disruptions. If it stops outsourcing, we will not stage a strike. We are left with no choice.'

The lifeguard union and the department expressed disappointment after the nearly two-hour meeting failed to resolve differences on outsourcing services at new swimming facilities.

'Dr Ho just tries to put on a show by having a meeting with us,' Mr Kwok said.

'The government does not listen to our views and has no intention to explore other alternatives to replace outsourcing, which we strongly object to.'

The union demanded the government halt contracting out services and management, or freeze outsourcing for a year. But Dr Ho said outsourcing was a government policy and an effective staffing option.

'We do not see any reason why the government has to freeze or delay outsourcing which is cost-effective and efficient. I stress again job opportunities of all existing staff will not be affected by the policy,' he said.

Dr Ho hoped the union would call off the strike, which would disrupt services at swimming facilities.

'I appeal to all lifeguards to put the public interest before their industrial action, which will cause an inconvenience.'

When asked whether the union was using public safety as a bargaining chip, Dr Ho said: 'Lifesaving services are in high demand in summer. So, this is the best time for lifeguards to take industrial action.'