A union says the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department is putting staff in danger by sending ill-equipped cleaning staff instead of hawker control officers to prosecute salesmen who display banner stands illegally in the streets. FEHD Staff Rights Union vice-chairwoman Li Mei-siu said at least three members of the cleaning team had been verbally abused and threatened after asking salesmen to put away their stands. She said part of the problem was that the cleaning team did not have enough manpower. 'The department should have sent the hawker control team to do it. They are better trained and equipped, with radio and can come in teams,' she said. The problem has surfaced in recent months after the department stepped up law enforcement against the display of banner stands. The scheme was piloted in Wan Chai and Mong Kok in October 2008 and was expanded to 10 districts after achieving satisfactory results, the department said. Banner stands have been sprouting up on the streets in recent years, with more and more salesmen setting up temporary stalls in pedestrian areas such as Sai Yeung Choi Street South in Mong Kok. Li said about 600 frontline staff in the cleaning team were affected. 'With this new task at hand, we are also unable to perform our normal duties, such as patrolling the streets to make sure they are clean.' She said the hawker control team had a more ample supply of manpower with over 1,000 members. The union would file a formal complaint to the department, she said. A spokesman for the department said operational guidelines were clear and that staff could seek help from the police 'in case of confrontation or resistance'. He said district staff had been 'amply consulted' before stepping up enforcement efforts in districts. A person familiar with the matter said complaints among the cleaning team were rare. 'There have been no complaints from other districts, except the one Li was working in.' Lawmaker Leung Yiu-chung said the department should clarify if the law enforcement campaigns were targeting the salesmen or the companies they worked for. 'The salesmen are all grass-roots employees who work hard for a living.'