In response to the media's follow-up enquiries on the collective sick leave action taken by the lifeguards of the Victoria Park Swimming Pool (VPSP) yesterday (April 21), a spokesman of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) made the following remarks today (April 22):
The LCSD has all along attached importance to communication with lifeguard colleagues and their union. An assistant director of the department called for a meeting with the union on April 17 to discuss matters of concern to the lifeguards of VPSP, including duty roster arrangements and staffing requirements.
On the matter of duty roster, a consensus was reached at the meeting that the lifeguards' preference would be taken into consideration in working out the duty roster starting from May.
On staffing requirements, the department clearly explained to the union's representatives the justifications for the lifeguard provision for VPSP. Taking the main pool of the new VPSP as an example, the current provision of five lifeguards in a shift (which is higher than the provision of four lifeguards for the old main pool) should fully meet the requirements for daily operation. As the new VPSP has been in operation for just a few months, the department suggested a manpower review would be conducted after the swimming pool had run for a whole year when the usage patterns during different sessions and seasons could be better understood. The suggestion was supported by the union representatives at the time. The department expressed regret and disappointment on yesterday's collective sick leave action which happened at a time when a discussion with the union was still ongoing.
The LCSD has all along been regularly and proactively communicating with the lifeguard union. A working group comprising of staff and union representatives was also set up last year focussing on the long-term manpower requirements for swimming pools and beaches. As a matter of fact, about 160 lifeguard quotas had been added for various swimming pools and beaches in the past two years to meet the operational needs of various situations.
The LCSD reiterated that there was no uniform international standard on lifeguard establishment and different countries had different lifeguard manpower provisions. While the department would draw reference from the arrangements in overseas countries, it would also consider factors such as swimming pool designs, facilities and usage rate in deciding the manpower requirements. At this stage, the department does not agree to apply a uniform arrangement in manpower provision irrespective of the usage rates and operational needs in different swimming pools.
The department has pledged to continue with the ongoing dialogue with the lifeguard union. It has also called for the lifeguard colleagues to adopt a rational approach in resolving problems rather than resort to radical actions at the expense of public safety and public services.
Ends/Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Issued at HKT 21:47