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LCSD's response to petition by lifeguards

     Following is the response by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) to a petition staged by the Hong Kong and Kowloon Lifeguards' Union (the union) today (April 1).

     "The LCSD treasures harmonious staff relations and attaches great importance to close communication with staff unions and its members.

     After investigation, the department has found no evidence to substantiate the union's allegation that its members have been suppressed by the management of the swimming pool concerned.  We believe that this could be the result of misunderstanding between the management and the staff. In fact, we fully support our staff's participation in union activities.  Swimming pool supervisors will facilitate staff's taking part in union activities provided that the delivery of public services would not be affected.

     In response to the allegation that the performance appraisal in respect of some executive members of the union have been adversely affected due to their participation in union activities, we must stress that all staff appraisals are conducted in a fair and just manner in strict compliance with the established mechanism. Performance appraisals for lifeguards are conducted by two different supervisors of different ranks as appraising officer and counter-signing officer respectively to ensure a fair assessment of their performance over the year. Staff who are dissatisfied with their appraisals can lodge an appeal to the department through the existing channels and their cases will be reviewed by the divisions concerned.

     CCTVs are installed in LCSD venues for the purposes of strengthening public safety (in particular in swimming pools and beaches) and security, crowd control, surveillance and control of areas and facilities with high risk as well as control of illegal activities. In fact, the LCSD has drawn up guidelines to govern the installation and operation of CCTVs in its venues. These include putting up notices in Chinese and English at conspicuous locations to inform the public of the installation of CCTVs in the venues and that only authorised personnel can have access to the screens and recordings.

     The LCSD is conducting an investigation into the case involving the Jordan Valley Swimming Pool as mentioned by the union. Our initial findings reveal that venue supervisors, while monitoring the CCTV for the purpose of ensuring public safety and security, have given advice to swimming pool staff on their work afterwards. While the intention is to improve the services provided to the public, it might have resulted in some misunderstanding on the part of the staff concerned.  While we believe that the incident has not resulted in infringement of privacy, we have reminded venue supervisors to exercise caution and strictly follow departmental guidelines to avoid misunderstanding.

     The department will meet the union concerned as soon as possible to explain to them the findings of the investigations into various allegations made.

     To enhance the management of swimming pools, the LCSD undertook last year to study the feasibility of taking back the management of the two outsourced sports centres with swimming pools, namely Island East Sports Centre and Tai Kok Tsui Sports Centre. The department has reviewed the issue and decided in principle that the management of the two sports centre should be taken back.  As the department has not yet been able to deploy the necessary financial and staffing resources to take back the management of the two sports centres but the current outsourced contracts will expire on April 30 this year, the LCSD has had to invite tender for the award of new contracts for the management of the two sports centres.  That said, the department will build in an escape clause in the new contracts for their early termination by giving sufficient prior notice to the contractors, so that it can take back the management of the two sports centres as soon as the department is in a position to do so.

     The LCSD attaches great importance to swimming safety. Various measures have been put in place to ensure that the contractors (both the existing one and the new one) will adhere to the highest standards in deploying lifeguards and ensuring safety.

     The department has kept in close touch with the unions and the staff.  We will continue to strengthen the communication with them so that we can work together to provide quality services to the public."

Ends/Thursday, April 1, 2010

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