A dozen lifeguards protested at Kowloon Park Swimming Pool yesterday as the Leisure and Cultural Services Department tried to hire temporary lifeguards to cope with a strike planned for the weekend.
About 800 lifeguards will strike on Sunday - the city's official Sport For All Day - as part of their campaign for an additional 400 staff to improve services at beaches and pools.
The department expected to hire about 250 hourly-rate lifeguards yesterday to cope with the strike.
It was recruiting at the Kowloon Park Swimming Pool in Tsim Sha Tsui and the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Park Swimming Pool in Sai Ying Pun.
Also, a department spokesman said the Hong Kong Life Saving Society had promised to provide more than 300 voluntary lifeguards with experience of providing services at weekends and in the peak season.
If there is a shortage of manpower, the department will partially or even completely close facilities for the safety of swimmers.
Alex Kwok Siu-kit, of the Hong Kong and Kowloon Life Guards' Union, said the department was being irresponsible by relying on temporary staff, since they may not have the necessary training and experience.
'You can't say they possess valid lifeguard awards and first aid certificates,' said Kwok. 'How will they know how to rescue at the beach without knowing the site's environment, how to use the rescue equipment and how to work as a team?'
Some swimmers are worried about what will happen on Sunday.
'There will be many people going to the pools on Sunday, but there will not be enough lifeguards on duty,' said Dorothy Yim Hoi-heng, 16, who often swims at the Kowloon Park pool. 'I think I will not [come to swim] for safety reasons.'
Members of the lifeguards' union will go on strike and stage a sit-in from 10am to 6pm outside the department's headquarters in Sha Tin on Sunday.
Kwok said manpower has been cut by 30 per cent since 2004, while the number of public swimming pools has increased.
The total number of lifeguards usually on duty for the Leisure and Cultural Services Department. About 800 are set to strike