The KMB bus driver alliance behind a strike over the weekend announced on Monday that they will wait at the Kowloon Bay bus depot for the company’s management to respond to their demands.

If KMB refuses to respond by 2am Tuesday morning, the alliance said it will take further action. It did not give details as to what the action may entail.

A group of drivers took part in a three-hour strike on Saturday evening over salary reforms rolled out in the aftermath of the fatal Tai Po crash, which left 19 dead. The strike was initiated by the newly-established Alliance of Monthly-Paid Bus Drivers.

yip wai-lam
Alliance spokesperson Yip Wai-lam. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

Amid concern over the working conditions of bus drivers following the crash, the company decided to increase their base and overtime salaries. However, KMB simultaneously removed commissions available for safe driving and good service, causing unions to question whether the reforms were actually improvements at all.

The bus company also stopped handing out shifts to around 200 part-time bus drivers in the wake of the crash, leading them to protest, saying the move was unfair.

KMB bus driver strike
Photo: In-Media.

On Monday morning, Alliance spokesperson Yip Wai-lam bowed in apology to the public for any inconvenience caused by the union action.

Yip initially planned to meet with company representatives on Monday, but decided not to attend after learning that the firm was intending to meet her as an employee in accordance with regular procedures, rather than as an alliance member.

Yip said that the company’s stance was clear in that they were disregarding the dangers faced by the drivers: “[T]hey’re adopting standard procedures… they aren’t listening to our demands,” Yip said. “I feel – the only way I can describe it is… it’s a cold business.”

“They’re taking us in circles, there’s no sincerity,” Yip added.

The alliance is demanding that a review system for bus drivers be scrapped, in order to alleviate pressure. They have also urged better education for passengers.

Yip earlier clarified that she had not been suspended – as was rumoured online – but that she was merely asked to not drive and stay in the office on Sunday. She said she did not believe it was an act of revenge, RTHK reported.

Road and passenger safety

Asked about the matter on Sunday, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung said he hoped that any differences would be settled with communication and understanding.

“I want to stress that for any union action – whether it’s of a large or small scale – there must be attention paid to road safety and especially the convenience and safety of passengers. This is most important,” he said.

Matthew Cheung
Matthew Cheung. File Photo: GovHK.

“There must be rationality and pragmatism in the process of fighting for any labour rights, and it is important to take into account the overall interest.”

Cheung said that he knew the public were concerned about the working hours and treatment of drivers, and said the government was similarly concerned. He said that the chief executive has announced an independent committee led by a judge to look into the bus crash, and he believed it would touch upon factors such as work environment, conditions and training.

When asked about the role of the Labour Department in such union movements, Cheung said that the department usually takes part in behind-the scenes work. He said that KMB has various unions and that the public should view the matter objectively and allow the management to communicate with unions.

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Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.