New World First Bus

Bus drivers bid to cash in on economy

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 10 February, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 10 February, 2007, 12:00am

Union representing 11,000 demands pay increase of 5 to 7pc

Bus drivers hoping to benefit from the improved economy are demanding a pay rise of 5 to 7.5 per cent this year - a target they believe will not affect fares.

The Motor Transport Workers General Union - which represents more than 11,000 drivers from Kowloon Motor Bus, Long Wah, New World First Bus and Citybus - set the goal based on the city's economic growth, drop in fuel prices and the inflation forecast.

'We are quite optimistic about gaining favourable rises this year,' said Chung Kin-wah, director of the general union. 'There are encouraging signs of pay rises throughout the labour market.'

The union is demanding the increase for drivers who are paid on a monthly basis. It is also seeking a rise of HK$25 to HK$37.50 in wages for those paid on a daily basis.

Mr Chung said the bus companies had been profitable enough in the past year to bear the cost.

'The union believes the companies are absolutely capable of meeting the demand, judging from the financial situation of the two large bus groups.'

New World First Bus Services operates New World First Bus and Citybus, while KMB manages the other two. Mr Chung said the union might take further action if negotiations failed.

'We are very careful not to affect citizens' lives,' he said. 'But we don't exclude the possibility of actions.'

Last June, the union had planned a 'work to rule' semi-strike by 6,000 drivers. However, the action was averted with a last-minute deal in which KMB drivers received a 1.4 per cent pay rise plus a one-off bonus of HK$250, while Citybus and New World First Bus drivers received an increase of 1.8 per cent.

The unionists had cited a survey by the Federation of Trade Unions which showed that workers from various sectors expected an average pay rise of 7.5 per cent this year. They also pointed out that global oil prices had fallen from last year's peak of US$80 per barrel to US$60.

A spokeswoman for New World said the company negotiates pay rises with unions every April. She said the company was confident that the two sides would reach an agreement, and a pay rise would be backdated to January.

A KMB spokeswoman said it would start talks with unionists in the middle of the year. She emphasised the pay rise and bonus given last year but said a rise this year would depend on negotiations.