A lifeguards’ strike forced the closure of several swimming pools in Hong Kong and also affected many public beaches in the city on Tuesday.
Lifeguards launched a one-day strike over issues such as pay and staff shortage, and threatened more such action later if their demands are ignored by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD), Apple Daily reported.
More than 1,000 members of the Hong Kong and Kowloon Life Guards’ Union took part in the strike, the union was quoted as saying. The figure is said to represent more than half of the lifeguards accredited by the government.
A total of 42 swimming pools and beaches in the city were said to have been affected.
The strike began with about 150 lifeguards swimming for about 800 meters from Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade to Hong Kong Cultural Centre, shouting “Shame on LCSD” along the way. Lee Cheuk-yan, a Labour Party leader who is Secretary General of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, swam with the protesters.
Meanwhile, several more lifeguards marched from the Avenue of Stars to the Cultural Centre. Then all the participants assembled in Kowloon Park, where some labor groups joined to show their support.
Union vice president Kwok Siu-kit called on the government to add manpower as a rush of mainland visitors to the city’s swimming pools has increased the workload of lifeguards. More importantly, the union wants to be treated as professionals instead of technical workers. He urged government authorities to meet with the union as soon as possible and resolve the grievances.
If the issues are not addressed, there will be another three-day strike, the union warned.
A spokesman for the LCSD apologized to the public on Tuesday for the inconvenience caused by the lifeguards’ strike, and said that authorities will continue to communicate with the workers’ union.
Lee Chi-ming, deputy chairman of the Hong Kong Government Lifeguards General Union, criticized the LCSD for seeking to hire interns with hourly pay of HK$110 (US$14.2), rather than bring in full-time lifeguards. Interns are being hired at higher pay, even though the full-timers are paid only HK$64 an hour, he said.
To qualify as a lifeguard in Hong Kong, one is required to have at least five professional certificates. Lifeguards say they are just as professional as fire fighters, and that they should not be graded as artisan, a gardener or an engine-room technician under the government’s classification.
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