The Federation of Bus Industry Trade Unions is calling on police to do more to protect the personal safety of bus drivers, after a driver was allegedly assaulted last week by a passenger who failed to pay a fare.
“Police representatives tell us that the force will strictly enforce the law, but front-line officers often appear reluctant to take on the workload and just want us to settle in private,” Lam Kam-biu, bus driver and chair of the federation, told HKFP.
“When we wanted to pursue the case, some officers would say ‘Do you really want to make a big deal out of it?’ and we would be pressured to settle with the other party.”
The federation – representing three bus drivers’ unions from Kowloon Motor Bus, Citybus and New World First Bus – said the police handling of the incidents “sends a very wrong message to society that basically there is no legal consequence for using physical violence against bus drivers.”
It demanded a joint meeting with police, the Department of Justice and the Transport Department to discuss measures to ensure a safe work environment for bus drivers, such as educating the public that assault against drivers is a serious issue.
“Bus drivers serve millions of residents every day and are an indispensable part of society. They deserve respect from the public,” it said in a statement last Thursday.
Lam said bus drivers are also dissatisfied that police and the Department of Justice appear to be soft on perpetrators, with few prosecutions made in recent years.
“Many cases involved pushing and shoving by passengers. Drivers should always pull over and seek instructions from their company if the situation has made driving unsafe,” he said. “We cannot tolerate violence against drivers.”
Tsang Chiu-man, organising secretary of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, estimates that an average of two assaults against drivers take place every month.
Last Thursday, a passenger allegedly hit a bus driver when confronted for failing to pay HK$4.9 fare on the Kowloon Motor Bus route no.93A. The passenger was subsequently arrested. Police told HKFP that they are investigating the incident.
Last September, five bus drivers were hospitalised after being allegedly attacked by a passenger at the So Uk Bus Terminus. The federation said last Thursday it is upset that the passenger has yet to face charges for their action.
It also expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of response from the Department of Justice. Last month, it met with representatives from the Transport Department and the police on the issue. The justice department declined to attend the meeting without providing a reason, Tsang said.
“When police said they would not press charges, they often said they referred to legal advice from the justice department. So we want to know what their prosecution standards are,” he said.
In response, a spokesperson for the Department of Justice told HKFP that it did not receive the unions’ invitation sent to the director of public prosecutions via the Transport Department due to a “breakdown in communication.” But it said it is “prepared to consider any similar invitation in accordance with the established procedure.”
A police spokesperson told HKFP that the force will handle all unlawful activities fairly and take follow-up action in a professional manner. “This includes making prosecution when there is sufficient evidence,” it said. “Police do not tolerate any cases of violence.”
It said it does not have figures of arrests and prosecutions made in relation to assault against bus drivers.