Ease ground crew's burden, says union

PUBLISHED : Monday, 02 June, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 02 June, 2008, 12:00am

A union representing airline workers is calling for better protection for ground crew, including giving them a legal right to refuse to handle overweight loads.

Citing widespread occupational injuries among ground crew, the Staffs & Workers Union of Hong Kong Civil Airlines wants legislation allowing the workers to refuse to manually handle loads exceeding 23kg - the standard set by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in the US as safe to lift by hand.

Workers loaded and unloaded at least eight flights each day, often moving cargo weighing more than 23kg in a kneeling or crouched position, union deputy general secretary Ip Wai-ming said.

A survey conducted by the union over the past nine months revealed a litany of work-related injuries. Of the 115 respondents surveyed, 68 said they experienced various injuries, with lower back pain, bruises and cuts being the most common, said Trevor Sun Tung-cheung, a project manager at the Hong Kong Workers' Health Centre.

The union said injuries associated with working in the cramped confines of aircraft cargo and baggage spaces should be included in the Employees' Compensation Ordinance, which covers occupational accidents and hazards.

The health, safety and training of workers also needed to be considered, while basic monthly salaries of about HK$6,300 should be increased to attract more people to the industry and relieve the manpower shortage, the union said.

A worker surnamed Chan said automatic rollers to move cargo containers on large aircraft often malfunctioned and workers had to move them manually because they usually were not fixed immediately.

Mr Chan said many staff did not complain and continued to work in pain, fearing they would be laid off or lose their year-end bonuses.