Bus drivers' strikes loom as pay talks drag on

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 July, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 July, 2010, 12:00am

At least two of the city's four bus companies face the threat of strikes after failing to meet their drivers' demands despite nine recent meetings.

Representatives for Citybus, First Bus, KMB and Long Win Bus met drivers' unions yesterday afternoon, with the latter two still trying to resolve their issues.

After yesterday's meeting, KMB agreed to increase salaries by 1.8 per cent this year. They also agreed to lift the annual bonus from HK$1,500 to HK$1,800 for all drivers.

But that was not enough, said Chung Kin-wah, vice-chairman of the Motor Transport Workers General Union. 'We will try to hold an internal meeting, come up with an agreeable salary increase level, and have another meeting with them within the week,' he said.

The union had lowered its expectation from 4.2 per cent to 4 per cent, and could take industrial actions if the next meeting failed, he said.

Drivers for Long Win Bus, which operates on North Lantau and at the airport, get the same offer as KMB because Long Win and KMB are both owned by Transport International.

Citybus and First Bus reached agreements yesterday, including a 1.8 per cent pay rise, up from 1.4 per cent last year. Drivers will also get three family passes for free travel, up from two last year.

Citybus, which previously did not pay a bonus, would offer HK$1,800 from this year, according to the union's Citybus division representative, Tang Wai-cheung.

'Although it isn't perfect, we accepted because it's hard to satisfy both sides,' he said. 'It's also because they said if we didn't take this offer, we would have to start the negotiation all over again.'

But the dust has yet to settle for Citybus drivers as another union, the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Union's Citybus drivers' union, also met the company and said they did not agree with what was offered. The union is demanding a pay rise of 3.3 per cent.

A union spokesman said the initial result of a poll suggested almost all drivers did not accept what was offered and would strike if negotiations failed. First Bus drivers would get a HK$1,800 bonus, up from HK$1,000, the union's First Bus representative, Chan Shue-ming, said.

'What they offered wasn't very good, but we thought it's time we compromised given the number of meetings we've had,' Chan said.

More than 80 per cent of drivers polled in a recent union survey supported action plans, such as a go-slow or a strike, if the discussions fell apart, Chung said.

'We don't want to inconvenience the public, but even a great dam may not withstand a deluge and a tempest,' he said, comparing the difficulties drivers faced to natural disasters.