Firefighters move closer to 48-hour work week after success of trial

Success of trial period has bosses considering a cut in hours that would not compromise safety

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 February, 2014, 3:47am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 February, 2014, 3:47am

Firefighters may be closer to their long-sought 48-hour work week after their bosses said they might shorten a transitional three-year trial of a 51-hour week.

The Fire Services Department said the trial, which began in October with an understanding it could eventually lead to a 48-hour week, had shown good progress. Firefighters were previously working 54 hours a week.

"If the trial scheme [continues] to show good results, we don't rule out advising the government to shorten the trial period," Director of Fire Services Andy Chan Chor-kam said yesterday.

But he reiterated the department's stance that any reduction should not compromise service quality or require extra manpower or resources.

The union that represents most of the department's staff said it would welcome any reduction that did not cause staff cuts or damage service quality.

Chairman Nip Yuen-fung said the Hong Kong Fire Services Department Staffs General Association would make a more detailed response after it had collected members' opinions in a survey to be conducted in two months' time.

The department said it would add 621 staff this year including 310 firefighters, 58 fire captains and 229 ambulancemen.

It acknowledged ambulance staff concerns that service quality was compromised by the fact that many often had no time for lunch until after 2.30pm, having started work at 7.30am. But the department added that it was not a common situation and only occurred when there was a surge in ambulance calls.

Deputy director David Lai Man-hin said that in a survey only about 10 per cent of staff said they encountered such situations and the department was looking at ways to address the problem.

The department yesterday showed off a new mobile training unit consisted of two containers simulating a smoke-blanketed fire scene with temperatures as high as 800 degrees Celsius.

The HK$8 million Dutch-made unit, which can handle three trainees at a time, will rotate between stations.

The department will replace its eight mini fire trucks used on outlying islands and in Tai O on Lantau Island if it is satisfied with four Danish-made models bought last year.