Bosses urged to be flexible if bus drivers' strike makes workers late
Employers have been asked to be flexible if staff are late for work today because of industrial action by bus drivers, which is expected to cause delays at least today and perhaps for longer.
The New World First Bus Company Staff Union said about 600 drivers would take part in a strike, while a similar number of Citybus drivers would stage a work-to-rule, which means buses will not set off until passengers are seated, they will also stop at every stop even if no one wants to get on or off, and not pull away from a stop until the bus in front has left.
The exact number of participants will only be known today when drivers check in for work. They are required to inform the management of their decisions before beginning of their shifts. The industrial action has been scheduled initially just for today, but the drivers will decide tonight whether or not to continue it.
The two sister bus companies operate a total of 205 bus routes that serve about a million people every day.
Southern district and eastern district are expected to be worst hit in the action by the drivers.
Lam Lai-fong, a resident of Ap Lei Chau who travels to work in Central by First Bus No91 every day, said she would have to wake up at least half an hour earlier.
'I will have to walk 15 minutes from home to catch other buses to work if there is no No91, and my alternatives are all operated by Citybus, which means I could still be late at work.'
Another person who lives in Pok Fu Lam said he respected bus drivers' right to fight for their own benefits and said employers should handle the situation better.
'Their bus service has never been great, and these threats of industrial action that hover above our head every year will not help improve my impression of the companies,' Steve Sze said.
A Transport Department spokeswoman said it had alerted other public transport operators including the MTR to prepare for increased demand. About 40 coaches have been placed on standby while officials monitor the traffic situation today.
Southern district councillors will offer free coach services between town centres and Ap Lei Chau, South Horizons and Wah Fu during the morning rush hour today. About 20 vehicles - each able to carry 60 people, will pick up passengers at selected points every half an hour.
New World First Bus will offer extra pay to get drivers on leave to work today, while transport officials and district councillors arranged dozens of coaches to pick up affected passengers at areas dominated by bus services.
The strike was to go ahead after managements of the bus companies came to terms with members under the auspices of the pro-government Federation of Trade Unions with a pay rise of 1.8 per cent, but driver representatives of the Confederation of Trade Unions insisted on an increment of 2.2 per cent.
Meanwhile, about 30 people staged a rally outside government headquarters in Central, demanding that the government veto Kowloon Motor Bus's application for an 8.6 per cent fare rise. Legislator Chan Hak-kan said travel expenses already ate up as much as 30 per cent of the income of a grassroots family.