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Hong Kong MTR

Hong Kong’s MTR Corporation turning blind eye to bullying in workplace, union says

Survey finds four in every five employees at city’s railway operator feel they have been unreasonably treated by supervisors

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 December, 2017, 7:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 01 December, 2017, 7:00am

Hong Kong’s railway operator was on Thursday accused by a union of turning a blind eye to bullying of junior staff, after a poll revealed four in every five employees felt they had been unreasonably treated by supervisors.

Examples of mistreatment cited by MTR staff included being verbally abused in public places. In one case, an administrative assistant complained that after working for the firm for 28 years to the satisfaction of bosses, she was then fired after failing an appraisal by a new supervisor two years in a row.

The poll results came on the back of staff complaints made to the Hong Kong Federation of Railway Trade Unions about administrative bullying and unfair dismissals.

The survey, conducted by the union on about 1,000 MTR staff in mid-November, showed that about 84 per cent said bullying existed in their departments. Almost 82 per cent said the company’s use of administrative means to bully staff was a serious issue.

As of the end of last year, the MTR Corporation and its subsidiaries employed 17,639 staff in Hong Kong.

Seventy-eight per cent said they had been subjected to unreasonable treatment by superiors, including being required to perform duties outside their responsibility, verbally abused in public places, or overloaded with work under tight deadlines.

Close to 84 per cent said the corporation’s management culture had deteriorated, and nearly 83 per cent believed the relationship between staff and the management had turned sour.

An overwhelming 96 per cent said that if the management failed to tackle the problems, they would affect employees’ sense of belonging.

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Union chairman Lam Shiu-wai called on the MTR’s senior management to address the “bullying culture” in the company to fulfil its social responsibility as a conscionable employer.

“From the poll results we can see that administrative bullying has seriously affected staff morale, and this situation will constitute a crisis for MTR operations,” he said, adding that senior management had repeatedly ignored their pleas.

He cited what he called the unfair dismissal of an employee named June Lee as a typical case of bullying by a supervisor, and urged the railway company to reinstate her.

Lee, who had worked for the MTR for 28 years as an administrative assistant, was suddenly fired in October after failing her appraisal two years running, but said she did not receive any prior warning of the sacking.

“Over 26 years working for the MTR my appraisal record had been good. But things changed two years ago when a new supervisor came to oversee my work,” she said.

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“I felt like I was being picked on and marginalised all the time without reason. In the end I failed my appraisal for two years and was sacked with one month’s salary. I was only told that part of my performance was not up to standard.”

One example she cited as bullying was that her supervisor had required her to check the first aid box on every floor of a 20-storey building and later complained that the number of plasters was insufficient in some boxes.

Lee said her abrupt dismissal had disrupted her plans to retire two years later, since her retirement benefits, including lifelong free rides on the MTR, had been denied.

An MTR spokeswoman said the firm had no comment on the survey as they did not know the methodology. She said the company conducted a regular independent staff survey through a consultant.

“As of the end of 2016, survey results showed most of our staff felt the MTR was a good employer,” she said. “We have a channel for staff to launch complaints and also other channels for them to communicate their concerns.”