Lift workers may quit despite pay deal

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 30 September, 2011, 12:00am


A group of workers who repair the lifts and escalators that help keep Hong Kong on the move say they may have to quit their jobs, despite securing pay rises after a four-day strike.

After 96 hours of industrial action, the Construction Industry Employees General Union said yesterday that a deal had been reached between 70 maintenance workers and the management of ThyssenKrupp Elevator.

Details of the improved salary package will be announced today, the General Union of Lift and Escalator Employees said, but it expressed sadness that workers in the trade had to work so hard to fight for a 'small pay rise'.

ThyssenKrupp paid workers who inspected and repaired lifts and escalators in about 600 buildings a base salary of HK$7,000 a month. The workers, who made up 5 per cent of all such workers in the city, said they wanted HK$8,500, in line with their counterparts at other companies.

'Even at HK$8,500, it is a very low amount,' lift union secretary Tsang Chi-kong said.

In comparison, from next month bar benders will be paid HK$27,060 for 22 days of work a month, while plumbers will get HK$19,360. The better wages were announced by the construction union on Wednesday, benefiting 280,000 workers across the city.

'Lift and escalator maintenance workers require a lot of knowledge and their work is quite dangerous at times. We deserve better treatment,' Tsang said, adding that the safety of Hong Kong people relied heavily on these workers. 'In no way can our wages reach the pay levels of the construction workers. We really fear that many will choose to leave.'

Fierce competition in the lift industry had pushed down maintenance charges, affecting wages. Tsang said the industry had 5,000 frontline workers, but quite a number had opted to leave in recent years because of the poor salaries.

His union said workers in other lift companies were also considering pay demands.

The Electrical and Mechanical Services Department is mulling a licensing system for workers in the industry. The union hopes workers can have more bargaining power when the system recognises them as professionals.

It said the government should be strict with contractors in enforcing regulations governing the frequency and duration of lift maintenance procedures in order to enhance public safety and protect workers.