KMB drivers threaten to strike over conditions

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 June, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 11 June, 2007, 12:00am

Kowloon Motor Bus drivers claim they are earning less than they did six years ago because benefits have been cut. They are threatening to go on strike if the bus operator does not improve their working conditions.

With talks now deadlocked, KMB drivers are demanding a pay rise of 5 per cent to 7.5 per cent for the coming year - far above the 2 per cent offered by the company.

The Motor Transport Workers General Union said yesterday that although KMB drivers had enjoyed pay rises over the past two years, the monthly earnings of many in 2006 was less than that in 2000.

Chung Kin-wah, deputy director of the union's KMB branch, said the company had achieved this through cost-cutting tactics.

'The frequency of services on many bus routes has been cut in recent years and drivers' schedules rearranged in a way that they are paid less for the same work,' he said 'Our rest time has been compromised.'

Mr Chung said an important company policy that allows injured drivers to continue working after they get well but before they are formally assessed on their capacity to work, had been scrapped.

After two years of sick leave caused by a traffic accident in 2005, KMB driver Sung Pang-fei is now idling at home without an income although his doctor told him in April that he was fit to return to work.

'[KMB] said they need my formal assessment result before deciding what kind of job they can offer me. But how am I supposed to live in the meantime? The assessment was scheduled on July 4 and my savings are being used up,' Mr Sung said.

Mr Chung said the bus company used to offer such drivers clerical work at about one-third of their salary. However, this is no longer the case.

A KMB spokeswoman said the policy had not been cancelled, but declined to comment on individual cases.

The Labour Department said it would look into the issue.

Lam Shun-ping, director of the union's KMB branch, said the company had also been transferring the 'less healthy' drivers - who just fall outside the passing range in their health assessment - to lower-paid clerical positions. This follows the introduction earlier this year of mandatory medical check-ups for drivers aged 50 years or older.

'[KMB] promised us and the Transport Department that the new requirement would not be used as an excuse for redundancy, but they are not honouring their promises,' Mr Lam said.

In a document submitted to the Legislative Council in March, KMB said more than 90 per cent of its drivers had at least two minutes rest between trips, but Mr Chung said this was not the case.

The union will refer the issues to the Transport Department and has threatened a slow-drive protest.

KMB staff last year received a 1.4 per cent pay rise.