Reduce maximum working hours of Hong Kong bus drivers, union says after fatal Kowloon crash
Workers echo company’s claim of manpower shortage and calls for government to look into industry guidelines
A bus drivers’ union in Hong Kong demanded on Saturday to reduce their maximum working hours from 14 to 12 hours per day after a gruesome accident involving a double-decker left three dead and 30 injured in Sham Shui Po.
Citybus Limited Employees Union said it was time for the government to address long working hours and manpower shortage in the industry. The call came even as Citybus, the company involved in Friday night’s crash, said its 44-year-old driver in the incident had been given enough rest time in between shifts.
“We have been urging the Transport Department to lower the maximum working hours to 12 since 2013,” Henry Hui Hon-kit, vice-chairman of the union, said.
“It is time for them to address this issue seriously as it is potentially leading to safety issues for bus drivers, passengers and other citizens.”
A bus driver who declined to be named said the driver involved in the incident was a contract staff who recently worked 14 hours a day.
With overtime allowance added to his monthly income of about HK$14,000, this would bring the figure he was earning roughly to HK$19,000 a month, the employee said.
Earlier on Saturday, Citybus development director William Chung Chak-man admitted there was manpower shortage in the company, and that the driver in the crash had taken a work shift that was earlier than usual.
Chung said the driver was supposed to be on a shift from 7pm until the next morning, but he started at 5pm on Friday. Chung added the driver had a rest period of at least 10 hours before he started work that evening, as stipulated by Transport Department guidelines.
The driver escaped unhurt in the incident but was later arrested on suspicion of dangerous driving causing death.
“No matter how bad the problem [of manpower shortage] is, we still have to follow the guidelines. In the worst-case scenario, we will cancel bus trips,” Chung said.
“But is 10 hours of rest is enough? We will discuss this with the Transport Department to see if there is a need for amendments.”
According to a 2016 poll, 97 per cent of bus drivers work overtime, and 78 per cent said they worked 50 to 60 hours each week. Some 75 per cent said they got an average of seven hours of sleep per day.
The survey was conducted by the Civil Alliance for Advocating Standard Working Hours, and it involved interviews with 76 bus drivers from Citybus Limited and New World First Bus Services Limited.
On Saturday Citybus set up a telephone hotline to offer help to the victims and their families.