Firefighters say bosses lied over disciplining staff

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 January, 2012, 12:00am


An angry firefighters' union accused management of lying after a letter sent to the union over disciplinary action contradicted what the fire chief publicly told the media.

The Fire Services Department Staffs General Association hit back at the department for planning to discipline five firemen, without a proper hearing, for breaching rules during a fatal blaze in March 2010 at an industrial building in Cheung Sha Wan.

In the disciplined services, a hearing into an officer's alleged wrongdoings is usually held before any punishment is handed out.

But Fire Services director Andy Chan Chor-kam said on Monday the department would impose 'disciplinary punishment' on four firefighters and one control room officer.

'We will directly impose disciplinary punishment because we have information on hand,' he said, adding that the information came from last year's coroner's hearing.

But the department's reply to the union said it would impose 'disciplinary action' to ensure 'fair treatment' and give officers a chance to defend themselves and appeal.

Association secretary Au Wah-kin demanded a clarification from the fire chief on whether a hearing would be held. 'It is clear that the department's account contradicts the chief's previous remarks. The director should come out to clarify his position,' he said.

A Coroner's Court last year found the five firemen failed to follow procedures during the blaze which claimed the life of one fireman and injured three other officers.

A department spokesman last night said the department had only raised the issue of the disciplinary action after repeated media enquiries.

He labelled the allegation that the disciplinary action was tantamount to making judgment before trial as 'unfounded'. He said that the decision to take appropriate action against the officers was made as a follow-up to the coroner's findings.

The spokesman reiterated that the disciplinary actions had started and the officers would be notified once the outcome was finalised.

'In the whole process, staff members concerned will be provided plenty of opportunities to state their disagreement,' he said. 'If they have any disagreement with the disciplinary procedures, findings or punishment, they may raise it with the director in accordance with the established mechanism.''