Bus union calls Hong Kong police ‘ineffective’ at protecting drivers from attacks
Motor Transport Workers General Union blames ‘ineffective law enforcement’ after KMB records show only two out of 41 assaults against drivers this year ended in convictions
One of Hong Kong’s largest bus worker unions accused police on Monday of “ineffective law enforcement” after it said that only two of 41 assaults against KMB drivers this year ended in convictions.
The Motor Transport Workers General Union, which represents more than 10,000 employees from five bus companies, made the accusation at the ninth hearing of the Independent Review Committee on Hong Kong’s Franchised Bus Service. The committee was formed to examine the industry after a KMB double-decker toppled over while taking a turn in Tai Po in February, killing 19 people and injuring more than 60.
According to KMB records, there had been 41 alleged assaults against its employees this year. Only two incidents ended with the attacker being convicted of common assault and fined.
Six cases were not pursued by the police and five were settled. The rest were ongoing.
“Why would bus drivers willingly settle after being assaulted? There are many incidents with superficial wounds, but only a few charges land? The police’s enforcement of the law is ineffective,” said Lai Siu-chung, who directs the general union’s KMB branch, adding that the number of assaults was probably higher because not every incident was reported to the company.
However, these figures clashed with the union’s submission to the committee, which listed only nine assaults against drivers between January 2015 and April 2018.
Following February’s fatal crash, there had been calls to install cameras on all buses which would face the driver’s seat, but drivers were “conflicted” about the arrangement, the union’s principal vice-chairman, Cheung Tsz-kei, said.
According to documents submitted to the committee, 2,319 KMB vehicles are equipped with cameras facing the road and the driver.
On one hand, drivers want protection, but some also feel stressed about being monitored constantly at work after some companies punished drivers for minor incidents – such as keeping only one hand on the steering wheel while sipping water, Cheung said.
Committee chairman Justice Michael Lunn questioned whether drivers only wanted to use video footage when it benefited them.
During the hearing, unions also complained that illegally parked cars often obstructed buses from approaching stops.
According to the Federation of Bus Industry Trade Unions, a driver was assaulted in Sham Shui Po last year after a passenger thought he was skipping a stop, when the problem was that it was blocked by an illegally parked car.
Lunn asked the unions if they would support the installation of security cameras at bus stops, and adding a device on buses for drivers to alert their companies about illegally parked cars.
Both the federation and union voiced support for the arrangement.
The committee, which does not have the power to summon witnesses or request documents from relevant parties, will make recommendations on safety measures to Hong Kong’s leader, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.
Representatives from New World First Bus, Citybus and New Lantao Bus had already testified to the committee. Two assistant managers of KMB will attend a hearing on Wednesday.