Pay rises for KMB bus drivers not related to Hong Kong crash that left 19 dead, boss says
Company chairman Norman Leung says salary decision followed debate over long working hours after accident involving rival firm
A pay rise for KMB drivers announced in February had “nothing to do” with a fatal accident that killed 19 people in Tai Po earlier that month, the company’s chairman Norman Leung Nai-pang said on Tuesday.
Instead, the decision to provide better salaries was made earlier, after a double-decker bus belonging to rival firm Citybus ploughed into pedestrians in Sham Shui Po last September, killing three and injuring 31. The evening rush hour accident sparked a debate over whether bus drivers’ working hours were too long.
Leung also read in media reports that drivers were earning less than HK$12,000 (US$1,540) a month and felt “something had to be done”. So by December, members of the board at KMB, the city’s largest bus operator, agreed to bump up pay from March 1 this year.
It said in a document submitted to the Independent Review Committee on Hong Kong’s Franchised Bus Service the change meant entry-level full-time bus drivers got HK$15,366 a month, up from HK$11,810.
“It has nothing to do with [the February accident],” he told the committee on Tuesday.
But he did not elaborate on why the pay increase announcement was made only 10 days after the accident and not earlier.
The committee was formed after the KMB crash on February 11. In addition to the 19 deaths, at least 67 people were injured.
The committee, which will make recommendations on bus safety to Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, has met 12 times since May.
Leung also said the company was looking to “enhance remuneration” for staff and introduce new pay grades for drivers. Currently, they are ranked into three tiers of seniority but the company intends to expand it to five. Employees who are not drivers will also see their pay enhanced as the company tries to recruit and retain quality staff.
Speaking after the hearing, a KMB spokesman said the company was hoping to make a formal announcement about new pay grades this month.
He added the 20 new increment pay points would be on top of existing pay points, meaning the salary ceiling of KMB employees would be raised.
Meanwhile, Peter Duncan SC, representing the committee, asked KMB executives if they retained records of a 2014 study on 29 sharp bends on the company’s bus routes.
The area where the KMB bus crashed had a sharp turn.
A former employee in KMB’s now defunct safety and quality department, Raymond Cheng, earlier told the committee he had conducted a study of bends on the firm’s routes and compiled the results in a file with video footage of road tests. But the company discarded the study.