Four bus drivers have returned to work after the Kowloon Motor Bus Company suspended a decision to sack them for participating in a strike.

The four, led by driver Yip Wai-lam, took part in a three-hour strike last month relating to a controversial salary reform package over which they said many drivers were not consulted. KMB fired them on Tuesday night, only to halt its decision hours later amid a public outcry. The decision is now under appeal.

Yip and her husband Lau Cheuk-hang took back their staff identity cards on Thursday.

Yip Wai-lam and Lau Cheuk-hang.

Yip said she and her husband were unwell and KMB had arranged for them to stay at a depot on Thursday. “I believe the company will arrange us to drive soon,” Yip said.

“I am happy that my colleague is able to drive again – at least they are back at their posts. The company has made an appropriate arrangement – I thank the company,” she said.

Asked if she was optimistic about the appeal, she said she will have faith in the company, as she felt the company was sincere after meeting with Godwin So, KMB’s general manager for corporate planning and business development.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam stepped in on Wednesday and said KMB had room to improve.

Appeal mechanism 

A third driver started work again on Thursday, whilst the remaining one is on leave until March 16. KMB Employees’ Union chair Kwok Chi-shing, speaking on behalf of the pair, said that they learnt they would be fired when they were still on their buses on Tuesday.

Kwok Chi-shing. File

Kwok said they were not allowed to leave unless they handed back their staff identity cards and signed a termination notice – one complied whilst the other refused. Kwok and the two filed complaints with the police and the Labour Department on Wednesday saying they were threatened, before the company allowed them to go back to work on Thursday.

He said the pair were notified in person on Thursday morning that they could return to work without any conditions, and without being required to go through an appeal mechanism.

“We do not agree with the ‘suspension’ of termination. Either they are fired or they should go back to work,” Kwok said.

But Lam Tsz-ho, deputy head of KMB’s communications and public affairs department, told local media that the pair had agreed to invoke the firm’s appeal mechanism.

Lam Tsz-ho. File Photo: In-Media.

Kwok said he was surprised by Lam’s version of events. He said his union may take action if KMB’s statement was true.

“The company had made a promise to them – it should thoroughly consider whether it should be changing it stance so often,” Kwok said.

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Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.