Drivers from the city's three largest bus companies may stage industrial action, after wage negotiations with employers failed last night.
The three companies - Kowloon Motor Bus, Citybus and New World First Bus - yesterday met staff unions to discuss wage proposals. But they said they would only offer a 3 per cent pay rise.
The KMB staff union insisted on a 7 per cent rise, while Citybus and New World First Bus drivers sought a 6 per cent rise, down from their initial proposal of 7 per cent.
Chung Kin-wah, who represents KMB staff in the Motor Transport Workers General Union as well as some drivers with the other two bus companies, threatened industrial action.
He said the union would place banners at bus terminals tomorrow in protest at the bus operators' refusal of their wage proposals. 'We are very disappointed,' Mr Chung said. 'The union may consider industrial action ... but further plans have yet to be discussed.' The general union is seeking a meeting with Secretary for Labour and Welfare Matthew Cheung Kin-chung by the end of the month.
But Citybus Employees Union secretary Tang Sin-hing and New World First Bus Company Staff Union chairman Chung Chung-fai said there would be room to lower their proposal. The union hoped the company could bring them good news at the next meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, after learning of their softened stance.
A KMB spokesman said the company understood the concerns of staff, but could only afford to offer a 3 per cent wage increase in view of soaring fuel prices and operational difficulties.
'We hope that our staff will understand the challenges the company is facing,' she said. KMB would meet drivers again to try to reach a compromise on wages, she said.
A spokeswoman for Citybus and First Bus said the firms had acknowledged the requests from the unions and would keep the dialogue going.