Tour guides facing pay cuts of about 60 per cent or more are threatening to stage a week-long strike from Saturday.
The Hong Kong Tour Guides General Union has not ruled out taking more drastic measures to protest against travel agencies and the government scrapping income from tips.
'We want the government and travel agencies to respond to our concerns about this matter. If they do not, we will escalate our protest and decide on our next course of action on June 21,' union member Wu Kwok-wah said.
He said tour guides were free to join the protest but did not say how many were expected to show up on Saturday. The union represents about 1,000 guides.
The pay cut mainly affects tour guides receiving inbound mainland tour groups. The number of these groups has fallen by about 8 to 10 per cent since heavy snowfall in February and the Sichuan earthquake last month devastated parts of the mainland, the union said.
Travel agencies are increasingly competing for business by waiving tips and forcing tour guides to accept the pay cut. The union has told the Travel Industry Council of its concern. The council, which regulates travel agencies, has yet to respond, saying it requires evidence.
Union member Lau Sin-mei said: 'Tips are an integral part of a tour guide's salary. Without this income, how can they survive? Of course, we hope the government can help us.'
Tour guides generally receive HK$50 a day in tips from each member of a tour group but split this equally with the travel agency.
Over the past month, the union has received eight complaints that some agencies are forcing tour guides to sign agreements forfeiting all tips. None of the agencies was identified but Mr Lau estimated they included about 10 per cent of all travel agencies.
Mr Wu said tour guides affected were afraid to complain publicly for fear of losing their jobs if the union failed to resolve the matter. Tips generally account for about 60 per cent or more of a guide's income.
The guides also receive commission on tour groups' spending on shopping. On jewellery items, the commission is usually up to 40 or 50 per cent of the total amount spent, and up to 10 per cent for electrical items. A tour group could spend as much as HK$20,000 on shopping but averaged between HK$5,000 and HK$6,000 and this amount was falling, Mr Wu said.
Travel agencies are also increasingly passing to tour guides the responsibility of paying a driver's fee of HK$300 for a two-day tour.
Travel agencies are increasingly waiving tour guides' tips
The amount of a tour guide's income accounted for by tips is typically: 60%