Hong Kong bus drivers’ working hours in question after fatal crash
Citybus representatives apologised to victims’ families at district council meeting after last week’s fatal double-decker crash
Nearly one-fifth of the 3,700 drivers at the two major bus companies in the city work at least 12 hours a day, operators told a district council meeting on last week’s fatal double-decker crash that killed three people and injured 33 others.
Representatives of Citybus, operator of the ill-fated bus, bowed to apologise to the victims and the families of the deceased at the Sham Shui Po District Council meeting on Thursday.
The route E21A double-decker swerved onto a pedestrian corner at the junction of Cheung Sha Wan Road and Yen Chow Street in the heart of the district last Friday. Eight of the injured victims remained in hospital on Thursday.
William Chung Chak-man and Chow Yat-shing, development director and insurance manager of Citybus stood in silence for a minute as a tribute was observed at the beginning of the meeting.
The duo apologised to the victims and their families before Chung addressed questions from the council, among which most were on the unfairness and potential danger of the long working hours of bus drivers.
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Chung disclosed that 18 per cent of some 3,700 Citybus and New World First Bus drivers worked more than 12 hours a day, including five per cent who worked more than 13 hours.
On average, the drivers worked 10 hours per day, Chung added.
The development director of Citybus promised to work closely with the Transport Department to review drivers’ work conditions guideline, which has not been updated for seven years, and caps the maximum daily working hours to 14.
Leung Cheung-kit, chief transport director of the department said they would meet bus driver unions in early October, after which they would discuss with bus companies about their employees’ requests.
The Citybus drivers’ union has called for a cut in the maximum daily working hours to 12 and the district council said it should be capped at 10. Chung said the changes would take time.
“Things will be better if the maximum daily hours are reduced to 12 hours but it takes time to negotiate and we have to hire enough ... drivers,” Chung said.
In the short term, Leung promised to discuss a temporary arrangement with bus operators to prevent drivers from “working long hours for days in a row” as long as bus service quality was not compromised.
Yeung Yuk, a district councillor, said the salary of bus drivers should also be reviewed.
“Bus drivers are forced to work overtime because a new employee can earn only HK$15,000 per month without working overtime,” he said.
Another councillor, Ho Kai-ming said: “It is rather horrific that bus drivers in our city work 14 hours a day, 360 hours a month, which is equivalent to two full-time jobs, but earn only one salary.”
Ho said the root of the problem lied in lack of collective negotiations and legislation for standard working hours.