Commuters face strife as bus drivers work to rule today

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 June, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 29 June, 2007, 12:00am

Commuters faced disruption this morning after New World First Bus and Citybus drivers decided last night to stage a work-to-rule between 7am to 11am in busy districts following the collapse of pay talks.

Mak Shiu-kei, chairman of the New World First Bus Company Staff Union under the Confederation of Trade Unions (CTU), expected 2,000 drivers, half the companies' drivers, would participate in the action.

About 100 maintenance workers will support them by staging a sit-in at the New World First Bus' depot in Hang Fa Chuen in the afternoon.

The New World First Bus Company, which also owns Citybus, failed last night in a last-ditch effort to avoid traffic disruption by offering a one-off bonus of HK$1,000 to drivers with an attendance rate of 100 per cent.

Mr Mak said it was unacceptable. 'How many drivers would have never fallen sick for once over their career,' he said. 'Besides, the proposal does not cover bus mechanics.'

The drivers' two unions were split over the pay dispute, which has dragged on for months. The Motor Transport Workers General Union under the Federation of Trade Unions (FTU) accepted the company's proposal of a 2.9 per cent pay rise and an increase of no less than HK$271 a month. Mr Mak's faction insisted the minimum increase should be HK$310.

FTU New World branch director Chu Pun-din said the union represented up to 80 per cent of the 4,000 drivers in the two companies, and he doubted Mr Mak's estimate that 2,000 drivers would protest today.

But Mr Mak said he had the support of at least 1,260 New World drivers who backed his proposal in an earlier survey. 'It is a political game - the company has made a deal with the other union in exchange for their acceptance of a plan that is not what most of our staff wanted,' he said.

During today's action, drivers will go no faster than 30km/h in the city and 50km/h on highways, and they will not allow passengers to leave the bus until the doors are in exactly the right position at the stop. It will focus on busy areas including Central, Causeway Bay and Nathan Road.

The Transport Department said the Emergency Transport Co-ordination Centre will monitor the situation. Police and other transport operators had been alerted to take special measures in ease congestion.

New World said it would deploy extra drivers and suspend non-urgent maintenance work.

Mr Mak admitted the action would inconvenience the public but insisted it was necessary because the company have rejected all the union's proposals.

'[Management] totally lacks sincerity, they simply ban all ideas of ours without making any counter proposals,' he said.

'Raising the minimum increase from HK$271 to HK$290 would only cost the company some HK$88,000 a year.'

New World said its proposal was reasonable and was supported by the majority of its staff.