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Traffic and road safety in Hong Kong

KMB strike leader refuses to meet company management unless they recognise she represents group of drivers

Yip Wai-lam accuses her employers of not genuinely caring for the well-being of drivers, and says she has not yet decided on her next move

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 February, 2018, 11:18am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 February, 2018, 3:54pm

A KMB bus driver who led a strike calling for better work conditions said on Monday she would not attend a scheduled meeting with company management if she was treated as an individual employee rather than as a group representative.

The remarks by Yip Wai-lam, head of the recently formed “Full-time KMB Driver Alliance”, came after she launched a short-lived strike on Saturday night opposing the pay restructuring exercise announced by the company last week.

Another union, Staff Rights Association KMB, which represents around 400 members, backed Yip and warned that there could be further strikes and action if the company fired her.

Woman who led KMB drivers’ strike suspended from work

Yip claimed at least a dozen drivers joined Saturday’s industrial action, although traffic and bus operations across the city were mostly unaffected.

The strike ended after KMB agreed to meet Yip on Monday afternoon for talks.

But on a radio programme on Monday morning, Yip said she would not attend the scheduled session after learning that the company would only be meeting her as an individual, rather than as a representative of the alliance.

“I’m not going [to the meeting]. What’s the meaning of it if I’m just attending in the capacity as an individual staff member?” Yip said, adding that the company did not genuinely care about drivers’ well-being.

She said she had not yet planned any follow-up action.

On the same programme, Lam Tsz-ho, deputy head of KMB’s communications and public affairs department, said the purpose of the meeting with Yip was to listen to staff opinion.

“We have been following an existing mechanism to meet staff,” Lam said. “If other colleagues hope to meet [the company’s management], this can also be arranged.”

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Asked whether KMB would fire drivers who were involved in the strike, Lam would only say that the company would handle the case fairly.

“We will handle the case in a reasonable, professional and fair manner,” he said, adding that any possible disciplinary action would be implemented by the relevant department in the company.

Staff Rights Association chairman Li Kwok-wah, meanwhile, warned that he did not rule out further strikes with other unions.

“We fully support Yip. If the company fires her, we will take action to back her up,” Li said at a press conference accompanied by lawmaker Cheng Chung-tai from localist group Civic Passion and Leung Yiu-chung from the pro-labour Neighbourhood and Workers Service Centre.

“We might have joint action with other unions. But we do not have any plans at the moment. We will see how the issue develops.”

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The union also urged the bus company to raise drivers’ monthly basic salary by a further HK$2,000 (US$256), excluding performance rewards and overtime pay, and to extend the retirement age from 60 to 65.

Li said drivers who joined the company before 1999 were paid around HK$221 in daily salary and could earn up to HK$31,000 a month, compared with around HK$18,000 for drivers who joined after 1999 as their pay was based on a monthly figure.

“Drivers who earn a daily salary get more bonus and allowance than drivers who took a monthly salary. The company should unify the pay scale to fill the gap,” Li said.

On Sunday, Yip was suspended from driving for a day, but clarified that it was not disciplinary action by the company. She said management “probably did not want reporters to follow” her.

Yip said she did not fear being fired. “I’m not worried at all. It is expected [if I am fired] … I will bear the responsibility for what I have done and I have no regrets.”