Following is a question by Dr Hon Kwok Ka-ki and a written reply by the Secretary for Home Affairs, Mr Tsang Tak-sing, in the Legislative Council today (November 20):
It has been reported that as some lifeguards of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) were dissatisfied with LCSD's extended disregard for the shortage of manpower and rejection of their demand for additional manpower and pay improvement, they have recently protested by taking sick leave concurrently, resulting in temporary closure of some swimming facilities in individual public swimming pool complexes and parts of the swimming zones in public beaches. Regarding the lifeguard services provided at the public swimming pools and beaches under LCSD, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) of the number of cases between 2009 and end of October this year in which some swimming facilities or swimming zones of public swimming pools and beaches needed to be closed temporarily because of unscheduled leave taken by lifeguards (set out in Table 1 and Table 2);
(b) of a breakdown of the cases listed in Table 1 by duration of closure and number of facilities closed each time;
(c) of the respective numbers of rescue, fatal, give-a-hand and accident cases which occurred between 2009 and end of October this year at public swimming pools and beaches while lifeguards were on duty (set out in Table 3);
(d) of the respective average weekly working hours of lifeguards in the civil service establishment and seasonal lifeguards between 2009 and end of October this year (set out in Table 4);
(e) of LCSD's recruitment targets for lifeguards and the actual number recruited between 2009 and end of October this year (set out in Table 5); and
(f) whether LCSD will conduct a review on the grade structure of lifeguards and consider re-grading them from the Artisan grade, to which they belong at present, to the Ambulanceman grade so as to enhance the remuneration package for lifeguards, in order to attract new entrants to become lifeguards; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
The Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) manages 43 public swimming pools, 41 gazetted public beaches and five water sports centres. The LCSD attaches great importance to the lifeguard services at its swimming pools and beaches, and conducts regular reviews of the services. The safety of swimmers has always been LCSD's prime concern when considering the manpower requirement of lifeguards in order to ensure the availability of adequate lifeguard services at all its swimming pools and beaches. Currently, there are 958 civil service lifeguards on the LCSD's establishment. In order to enhance lifeguard services and to meet operational needs, seasonal lifeguards are also employed during the swimming season every year. For example, in 2013, in view of the increased number of swimmers during the peak swimming season from June to August, the LCSD employed nearly 1 000 seasonal lifeguards to enhance lifeguard services at swimming pools and beaches; whilst in April, May, September and October, nearly 700 seasonal lifeguards were employed to render services supplementary to those provided by the lifeguards on the civil service establishment.
The LCSD sets the basic requirement for the provision of duty lifeguards according to actual operational needs at swimming pools and beaches and the levels of utilisation of swimming pools. In the event of unexpected absence of lifeguards due to sickness or for other reasons, the officers in charge at venues immediately redeploy suitable manpower according to established procedures so as to maintain the service levels at swimming pools and beaches. If replacements cannot be arranged immediately to meet the basic required provision due to time constraints, the LCSD will, after considering the actual number of lifeguards on duty, temporarily close swimming facilities that have relatively smaller number of users, to ensure the safety of swimmers. Public announcements will be made as soon as possible through various channels.
The LCSD has been increasing the manpower of lifeguards during peak and non-peak seasons on an annual basis since 2006 to enhance the lifeguard services available at swimming pools and beaches. In the past two years, 125 additional seasonal lifeguard positions were added, and the number of seasonal lifeguards was further increased by 42 in 2013. To review the provision of lifeguard manpower at public swimming pools and beaches in a more comprehensive manner, the LCSD established a departmental working group in 2013 to conduct a review and invited relevant staff representatives to join the working group for extensive collection of opinions. The representatives included the management staff from the swimming pools and beaches, lifeguard representatives, representatives from relevant staff unions and lifeguard representatives of the Departmental Consultative Committee. The LCSD will continue to examine the manpower of swimming pools and beaches through the working group. The manpower requirements of the swimming pools and beaches will be considered according to the circumstances of individual swimming pools and beaches under the principles of securing the safety of swimmers and optimising the use of public resources.
Our reply to the six parts of the question is as follows:
(a) The numbers of cases between 2011 and end of October 2013 in which public swimming pool facilities needed to be closed or partially closed temporarily due to unscheduled leave taken by lifeguards are shown at Annex I. During the period, there was no case in which swimming zones of beaches needed to be reduced temporarily due to unscheduled leave taken by lifeguards. Regarding the numbers of cases for the years 2009 and 2010, LCSD is unable to compile such statistics within the time available.
(b) Please refer to Annex II for the breakdown of public swimming pool facilities needed to be temporarily closed as set out at Annex I by average duration of closure and number.
(c) The numbers of rescue, fatal, give-a-hand and accident cases which occurred between 2009 and end of October 2013 at public swimming pools and beaches while lifeguards were on duty are set out at Annex III.
(d) According to the terms of appointment of lifeguards, the working hours of lifeguards on the civil service establishment and seasonal lifeguards is 45 hours net per week. Nevertheless, the LCSD may require some of the lifeguards to work overtime according to operational needs. For example, overtime work is required for extended lifesaving services at beaches on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays during the peak swimming seasons, and for the enhanced cleaning of swimming pools after their closure on a daily basis. Overtime work will be compensated by time-off or overtime allowance as and when appropriate. The average weekly working hours of lifeguards on the civil service establishment and seasonal lifeguards after deducting time-off from 2011 to the end of October 2013 are set out at Annex IV.
(e) Using the total number of lifeguards as at August 1 every year as the basis for comparison, the target and actual numbers of lifeguards on the civil service establishment and seasonal lifeguards recruited by the LCSD between 2009 and 2013 are set out at Annex V.
(f) Under the current policy, the Civil Service Bureau considers the need to conduct a grade structure review of an individual grade on the basis of two criteria, i.e. whether there are proven and persistent recruitment and retention difficulties encountered by the grade concerned; and whether there are fundamental changes in the job nature, job complexity and level of responsibilities of the grade concerned to the extent that a root-and-branch revamping of its purpose, positioning and structure is called for in order to enable it to function properly and effectively on a sustainable basis. The LCSD has all along maintained communication with the staff side and considered the justification put forward by them in respect of their request to review the grade structure of lifeguards. Nevertheless, the situation of the grade fails to meet the two criteria for the time being. The LCSD is now considering the supplementary information provided by the staff side and evaluate if there is sufficient justification for proposal a grade structure review.
Ends/Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Issued at HKT 18:36