Hong Kong’s embattled rail giant is giving out a one-off reward to show its gratitude to its staff, despite the firm saying it faces HK$1.6 billion (US$205 million) in costs to repair damages this year.
Full-time staff will receive a HK$2,000 reward, while part-timers will get HK$800 as part of the MTR Corporation’s One-off Special Recognition Payment.
“Amid the unprecedented disruptions and risk to our business arising from the prolonged public events in Hong Kong, your dedication and professionalism have been well recognised and appreciated by the general public,” wrote Jacob Kam Chak-pui, MTR Corporation’s chief executive officer, in a letter to MTR employees.
Those who joined the MTR before October 1, have a minimum of three months’ active service in Hong Kong since June and are under employment on December 31 will be eligible for the reward.
The rail operator became a key target of radical protesters after they accused it of kowtowing to Beijing following a scathing attack by mainland Chinese media.
They also accused the MTR of colluding with police by shutting stations near protest sites and reducing services, labelling it “Communist Rail”.
Hong Kong has been rocked by more than six months of anti-government protests, triggered by the now-withdrawn extradition bill that would have allowed the government to consider requests for extradition of criminal suspects to jurisdictions with which it had no existing agreement, including mainland China.
In September, a supervisor at Po Lam MTR station ended up in hospital following an attack by protesters who were angry that the station had been shut down when there were clashes between demonstrators and police.
A month later, the entire rail network shut down for the first time in its 40-year history due to vandalism and attacks on staff, after Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor invoked a colonial-era emergency law to ban wearing masks at protests.
Since the start of the protests, radicals had caused extensive damage to 85 of 94 MTR stations and 62 of 68 Light Rail stops.
“This year has been very tough for our colleagues. Not only did they deal with the social movement in the second half of the year, they also swiftly recovered from several accidents and adhered to company arrangements. We feel that they deserve a reward for their hard work,” said Lam Wai-keung, chairman of the Hong Kong Federation of Railway Trade Unions.
“Although the bonus isn’t much, it’s a token of regard that shows the company truly appreciates its staff. We hope the reward will raise colleagues’ morale, encourage them to spend during the holidays and stimulate the economy,” he said.
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