Hong Kong is ignoring the safety risks and plight of the city’s overstretched escalator and lift engineers as they grapple with plummeting wages, dangerous work conditions and long hours, AM730 reported Wednesday, citing unnamed engineers.
The report also accused the government of undermining the profession by blindly speeding up approval of foreign workers to fill vacancies in the sector. The sector was one of 26 given approval last week by the Labour Advisory Board for fast-tracked procedures to import workers.
The report said the shortage of industry professionals meant that some engineers had to work 15-hour days and up to 30 hours at a stretch twice a week, all the while bearing criminal responsibility for any malfunctions, the report said.
AM730 cited Hong Kong General Union of Lift and Escalator Employees chairman Tse King-wa as saying that lift and escalator engineers qualified by either completing a four-year apprenticeship through the Vocational Training Council or working for a contractor for eight years. He said engineers’ income had fallen by about a third in the last decade.
“The salary of those engineers is project-based, which sometimes means working 12 hours [a day]. Besides maintenance, they also need to work overtime — working 90 hours a week is very common. But the salary is really low, an engineer with five years of experience can earn only about HK$12,000 a month while on with 15 years of experience can earn HK$14,000,” Tse was quoted as saying.
Accidents are also common. Ta Kung Pao reported on March 8 that a senior lift engineer had his hand crushed as the lift he was repairing at a Ho Man Tin residential estate was activated accidentally.
Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions Rights & Benefits Committee deputy director Ip Wai-ming said the government should help improve the working environment and provide training for new entrants.
The report said that if veterans left the industry, new workers would not be able to enter.
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