Firefighters not really behind plan for 51-hour week , union survey shows

It says department survey does not reflect the views of frontline staff, and that its own poll shows a majority in favour of 48-hour workload

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 September, 2012, 3:40am

A majority of firefighters are against a proposed cut in working hours that their management has endorsed, a union says, based on a survey it did.

The proposal, put forward by the Fire Services Department, shrinks the firefighters' working week from 54 hours to 51 hours. The cut means the number of firefighters sent to douse a category one fire - the least severe of five categories of fire - will be reduced from 22 to 20.

The union is fighting for an even shorter working week of 48 hours.

The findings of the union's survey, conducted on Tuesday and yesterday, run counter to a poll held by the department last week that found greater support for the proposal.

The Fire Services Department Staff General Association said the earlier survey did not fully represent the views of frontline staff, as it included management, trainees and non-operational staff members.

"We are very disappointed about that survey. They were just manipulating figures," association secretary Au Wah-kin said.

The department's poll found that 56 per cent of 5,792 respondents backed the proposal. In the union's survey, however, 56 per cent opposed the idea.

Au said that since the union could not obtain a two-thirds majority view among the firefighters in its survey, it would stick to the results of its 2010 survey, in which most of its members demanded that the union fight for a 48-hour week.

A department spokesman said the union's interpretation seriously distorted the will of its members, and that it should think twice before taking action.

The union is due to meet officials from the Security Bureau next week to reflect the views of its members.

Au said the union was planning a three-day sit-in outside the government offices in Admiralty, but it had yet to decide on the date as the site was occupied by protesters against the national-education curriculum,

The department will submit its proposal to the Security and Civil Service bureaus, and launch a trial scheme by the end of this year.

Earlier this year, firefighters voted down a similar proposal that would have reduced night-shift staff numbers.

On Tuesday, director of fire services Andy Chan Chor-kam hit back at the union's claim that the department's survey failed to fully represent the views of frontline firefighters by including trainees and other staff.

"Trainees are already firefighters, while all the staff polled now work 54 hours a week and are affected by any reduction in working hours," he said.

Chan gave his assurance that the proposal would not affect the level of service that the department provided or the safety of firefighters.