The Hong Kong and Kowloon Life Guards’ Union staged a strike outside the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) headquarters on Sunday.
The demonstration closed four beaches, namely Butterfly Beach, Trio Beach, Silverstrand Beach and Clear Water Bay Second Beach. In addition, 12 swimming pools had to close down part of their facilities due to absence of lifeguards, according to the LCSD.
The lifeguards’ union demanded the government increase the current staff number to 2,400, raise the retirement age to 65 and create an independent pay grade for lifeguards instead of keeping them on the current “artisan” pay grade.
The union threatened to stage another three-day strike during “Sport For All Day 2016” in August if the demands are not met by next month.
Alex Kwok Siu-kit, spokesperson for the lifeguards union, told RTHK on Monday that around 400 lifeguards attended the Sunday protest. He added that swimming pools in Hong Kong are currently short of 200 lifeguards.
Previously, Kwok said the reason for the strike was that in 2004, LCSD cut down the number of lifeguards from around 2,400 to 1,580.
“We’ve been fighting for the past decade or so, and had the same demand for eight years. The fact is, for the past six or seven years, every year we have had insufficient manpower, but the LCSD just throws the ball back to the Civil Service Bureau,” said Kwok.
Earlier last month, the union staged a strike at Tuen Mun’s Butterfly Beach during the Dragon Boat Festival to call on the government to increase staffing levels. Around 400 lifeguards took part, saying they were motivated by concerns for swimmers’ safety at Hong Kong’s pools and beaches. Previously, they held city-wide strikes in 2004, 2005 and 2014.
Doris Fok Lee Sheung-ling, assistant director at LCSD, said at least 100 lifeguards failed to clock in during the strike and urged them to return to work as soon as possible.
LCSD told Apple Daily that it had employed a total of 37 civil service lifeguards between 2015 and 2016. The department also said it had added 180 job openings for seasonal lifeguards, which is a non-civil service post, in the past five years.
There are no vacancies for civil service posts on the LCSD website at the time of publication.