Go-slow protest by bus drivers fails to make an impact

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 June, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 June, 2007, 12:00am

About 500 New World First Bus drivers staged a work-to-rule in the morning rush hour yesterday, but commuters experienced little disruption.

Union leaders had expected about 1,000 to join.

The drivers were trying to put pressure on management in a stalled pay row that also saw about 100 maintenance workers - also fewer than expected - stage a sit-in at the company's depot in Heng Fa Chuen.

The action followed the collapse of talks between management and the New World First Bus Company Staff Union, which has rejected an offer that has been accepted by a union covering other workers in the company.

During the work-to-rule, affecting busy districts such Central, Causeway Bay and Nathan Road from 7am to 11am, the drivers stuck to 30km/h on city streets and 50km/h on the highways.

The Transport Department had arranged more people to man its emergency transport co-ordination centre but said the go-slow did not cause serious traffic congestion.

Union chairman Johnny Mak Shiu-kei described the overall response as 'not too bad' although the management had done 'quite a lot' to limit the action.

He said maintenance workers were asked to sign in with their supervisors every half hour, disrupting the sit-in, while the management removed signboards explaining their action from the sides of buses.

'The management has done a lot that we didn't expect,' Mr Mak said.

He said further action would be decided after a union meeting that was being held last night to discuss the outcome of the work-to-rule.

'We will probably meet the management again next Tuesday, but I'm not too optimistic,' said Mr Mak, whose union is affiliated with the Confederation of Trade Unions.

The company said management had been asked to remove the signboards by drivers who did not wish to take part. It said most of the services had not been affected.

Passenger Lam Kin-yan, who arrived on time for a job interview despite the action, said she supported the drivers if they did not cause too much inconvenience. 'I think they won't try to cause any trouble to passengers, because they know that it would affect their image.'

The Motor Transport Workers General Union has accepted the company's proposal of a 2.9 per cent pay increase and a rise of no less than HK$271 a month.

But the staff union says that would not be fair to the lowest-paid drivers.