Smaller group continues vigil at CX building

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 January, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 January, 1993, 12:00am

NOISY and enthusiastic strikers kept up a melodious protest outside the Cathay Pacific building at Kai Tak yesterday.

Armed with small flashlights, they swayed and chanted, ''Low, low temperature, high, high spirits'', and slogans calling on executives to stop hiding and come out and show their faces.

But the crowd last night was visibly smaller, with more men evident.

One said they had returned from overseas stations and had come to swell the ranks of the protesters.

Although the crowd was more spread out yesterday, forming a wall right across the front of the building and garage, police estimated there were no more than 800 strikers.

A senior police officer, stamping his feet in the cold, said: ''They're good singers. Their spirits are still high after seven days. They must believe in what they're doing to keep it up in this cold. Personally, I'm getting too old for this sort of lark, caught in this cold air funnel like this.'' He was one of 24 officers keeping an eye on the good-natured demonstration.

''They are very well behaved,'' he said.

''But if we are not here, there's no telling if it could get out of hand. From where we stand, it looks like their support is beginning to dwindle.'' Elsewhere in Hongkong, the strike appears to have had little effect on the economy. The Lunar New Year is traditionally a quiet time, with many people leaving the territory.

Mr Roger Thomas, director of the Retail Management Association, said that if the strike went across the Lunar New Year ''it could begin to bite''.

His comment was echoed by Mr Manny Woo, the executive director of the Hongkong Hotels Association, who said occupancy rates over the Lunar New Year always dropped because visitors knew the territory ground to a halt over the holidays and most shops were closed.

''What's the point of coming to Hongkong if you know the shops are not opening?'' he asked.

''Fewer people come over the Lunar New Year period. This is traditional.

''But if the Cathay strike does not end soon, then some tour groups scheduled to come in on CX flights might not be able to come. That could lead to cancellations, but it is not happening yet.'' Mr Thomas said Duty Free Shoppers had not noticed any ''downing of sales'' because it was not a busy period.

But he was worried about the post-holiday period, when the airport would be so full, ''anything could add to the chaos'', especially if there was not enough parking for charters and Cathay planes.

''All it will take will be for one small thing to go wrong with one plane and all hell could break loose,'' he said.

At the moment, the strike was having no particular effect in town. The damage had been confined to the reputation of the airline.

''Cargo loads tend to be light right now and the other carriers can pick that up,'' Mr Thomas said.

''The union is beginning to get out of hand. If they don't start doing something soon, people are going to start turning against them.

''Management is beginning to look better. The union has proved what it can achieve. They've made their point. It's time to end it.''