Airport authority accused of rip-off

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 August, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 August, 1995, 12:00am

THE Provisional Airport Authority (PAA) has been accused of ripping off contractors and charging higher than average prices for accommodation and food at the Chek Lap Kok site.

More than 10 contractors are involved in the row, which came to a head when the PAA was forced to spend millions of dollars installing air-conditioners in workers' dormitories after complaints by contractors.

'The PAA said imported labour from Thailand and the Philippines would be used to the heat, which is why they didn't bother to install air-conditioners in the first place,' said one contractor.

'But we felt that was very unfair especially as the men needed a good night's sleep if they were to work safely with heavy machinery.

'We told the PAA we weren't prepared to accept responsibility if the men were involved in accidents.' Faced with this pressure the PAA was forced to climb down and agreed to fit air-conditioners in each six-man room.

But the work has added about $10 million to the $560 million cost of construction and delayed completion of the south camp for several months.

The PAA will recoup a large slice of the cost from the airport builders, who are currently being charged $70 a night for each worker and about $100 a night for senior staff.

With 14,000 workers staying in the camps the authority will earn almost $1 million a day when construction reaches its peak at the beginning of next year.

Many firms feel this is unacceptably high, especially as site camps elsewhere in the world are traditionally subsidised by clients.

Several companies have considered renting entire floors of apartment buildings in Tuen Mun as an alternative.

But they have been deterred because of the cost and inconvenience of providing cleaning services and ferries to the airport site.

Contractors are also angry at the high cost of meals in the canteens which are run and managed by Gardner Merchant Kelvin, although prices are set by the PAA.

One senior construction company executive complained after he was charged $20 for a tuna fish roll.

Catering insiders, with experience of similar sized canteens on massive projects in the Middle East, said prices were higher than average.

'The prices charged are fixed by the PAA,' one expert said.

'They are higher than contractors are used to, but the camp is one of the best I have ever seen.' PAA spokesman Philip Bruce said charges for accommodation and food represented good value for money.

'For the $70 a night, workers get laundry done twice a week, recreation and other facilities,' he said.

'A three-course meal costs $22 and it costs $31 to $33 for a four-course meal in the staff canteen.' Mr Bruce said the PAA would reassess ferry services from Tuen Mun and Tsuen Wan after contractors complained they departed before the arrival of the first MTR train or were too slow.

He said the PAA's construction support staff were studying the introduction of faster ferries.