Bus union up in arms over driving hours

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 February, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 22 February, 2010, 12:00am

Angry Kowloon Motor Bus (KMB) drivers will complain to the Ombudsman about the transport authority's lax supervision during the past 15 years over what they call the bus company's 'inhumane work scheduling' for holidays.

The KMB Staff Union said many drivers, especially those on permanent terms, were not allowed to take days off during the Lunar New Year holiday last week. Some had been asked to work continuously for 10 days before they could take a day off. and some were forced to work for as long as 11 hours a day.The union went on to claim that many drivers on contract terms elected to take some days off during the holiday, thus further straining the manpower pool.

Its chairman Kwok Wai-kwong yesterday said: 'We have raised the issue with management but it does not listen. And over the years, we have also repeatedly raised it with the Transport Department. But nothing has been done.

'It is obviously maladministration on the department side. We are fed up and we shall complain to the Ombudsman,' added Kwok.

Public concerns over bus drivers' long working hours rose after two KMB double-deckers collided in Shing Mun Tunnel in Sha Tin last Tuesday. Both drivers and 23 passengers were injured when one bus rammed another from behind.

According to Kwok, the driver of the bus was exhausted after working continuosly since February 13, during which he spent some 11 hours on the road each day.

KMB is the largest bus operator in Hong Kong, with more than 3,900 buses and more than 12,000 staff. It operates 399 bus routes, ferrying more than 2.7 million passengers every day.

Democrat Andrew Cheng Kar-foo, deputy chairman of the Legislative Council transport panel, said: 'It is not acceptable to ask a driver to work continuously without proper breaks. Such an arrangement puts passengers' lives at risk.'

The Transport Department yesterday said drivers' rest times were a matter of concern and it would meet bus companies to study arrangements for working hours and drivers' rest times.

A KMB spokesman yesterday rejected the union's allegations, saying the company ensured drivers had proper rest and days off.