Two labour groups have called on bus companies to give staff a pay rise, adding that employees’ base salaries have been frozen for two years and they have had their hours slashed during the Covid-19 pandemic.

bus unions press conference
Representatives from two groups representing bus company employees at a press conference on May 13, 2022. Photo: Chau Siu-chung, via Facebook.

Representatives from the Hong Kong Franchised Bus Employees General Union and the Federation of Hong Kong and Kowloon Labour Unions’ (HKFLU) Transport Industry Committee held a press conference on Friday to announce the results of a survey completed by employees of Kowloon Motor Bus (KMB) Company and Long Win Bus Company.

The questionnaire found that over 90 per cent of those surveyed – which included mostly bus drivers, as well as technicians and other support staff – saw a decrease in their monthly income compared to before Covid-19 hit more than two years ago.

KMB bus stop
Commuters waiting for a bus in Tsim Sha Tsui. Photo: Hillary Leung/HKFP.

Among them, more than 60 per cent said their income fell by at least 30 per cent.

The survey was conducted in paper form and electronically between January and May, with 999 bus company employees surveyed.

Inflation burden

Kwok Chi-shing, chairperson of the Hong Kong Franchised Bus Employees General Union, explained that while KMB claimed it had not cut salaries during Covid-19, the reality was that many employees were making less.

He said many employees were dependent on the money earned from the extra hours worked on top of their basic salary. Covid-19, however, saw bus routes cut and the frequency of services slashed.

Chu Hon-chung, vice-president of the HKFLU’s Transport Industry Committee, said inflation and wider economic conditions were among the reasons why employees were demanding a raise.

He cited Hong Kong’s March consumer price index, which showed that prices for basic food and transport had increased by 7.6 per cent and 4.9 per cent, respectively, compared to the previous year.

retail shopping finance economy property market covid covid-19
Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

“Life has become more burdensome, but [employees’] salaries did not increase,” said Chu Hon-chung, vice-president of the HKFLU’s Transport Industry Committee.

Hong Kong’s fifth Covid-19 outbreak peaked in March, with daily cases hitting the tens of thousands. The wave has largely declined over the past few weeks. The city has recorded around 200 to 400 new cases a day since the start of the month.

“We see that with people returning to work and to school, and with the relaxation of social distancing rules, there are more people moving around in the community now,” Chu said.

“KMB also increased fares last year. We believe that KMB has the ability to increase our salaries in 2022,” he added.

The unions proposed a pay rise of at least 7 per cent, and a scheme that financially rewards more senior employees to encourage lower turnover.

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Hillary has an interest in social issues and politics. Previously, she reported on Asia broadly - including on Hong Kong's 2019 protests - for TIME Magazine and covered local news at Coconuts Hong Kong.