Link shop tenants threaten to strike over rising rents

PUBLISHED : Monday, 31 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 31 July, 2006, 12:00am

Stores will be closed and a sit-in staged with residents

More than 40 shop tenants in Siu Sai Wan Estate, Chai Wan, are threatening a city-wide strike as part of growing dissatisfaction with Link Management's rent rises since it took over government shopping malls and car parks in November

Shopkeepers and pressure groups say the new owner has forced people out of business by imposing rent rises and removal orders.

The tenants in Siu Sai Wan Estate are in the process of joining forces with other shopkeepers at public estates.

Link Management insists the increases are in line with market practice and that bringing in new tenants will attract more shoppers.

The tenants are fighting to save one shop in particular - Kam Pak Hop Kee noodle store, near the market entrance, which has been ordered to move by the end of next month. This is the deadline they have set Link to reply to their demands for a halt to rent rises and terminations of tenancies.

The noodle shop owner, Chan Wun-chun, who has been operating for four years, said the removal order would not only end his livelihood but that of his nine workers.

The strike organisers, who include fish shop vendor Tsoi Chung-keung, want to launch a city-wide action, but so far their action is limited to their estate.

'If Link refuses to meet our demands before that day, we will start our first action by closing our shops. We will try to lobby other shop owners in other estates to close their businesses altogether to step up our action.'

Mr Tsoi said that after closing their stores, owners would stage a sit-in with residents near the market entrance. The date of the action has still to be decided, he said.

'Our next action will be a rent strike. If all shop owners in public estates don't pay rent, this can force their chairman to step down.'

Mr Tsoi said that when tenancies expired, Link either asked them to move or raised rents.

So far 10 out of 50 Siu Sai Wan market vendors - including two meat shops, one sewing shop, and several vegetables stores - have had rent rises of between 10 and 15 per cent. One shop has shut and four others are planning to close.

Link refused to comment on whether they would back down if faced with strike action, or what they would do to solve the problem.

The company said its handling of tenancy matters and rent adjustments was in line with the market.

'Our principle in setting rents is 'value for rent'. Rents are set or adjusted with reference to circumstances of individual shops,' a spokeswoman said.

While refusing to reveal the number of shops asked to move, Link said such moves to attract new tenants could benefit existing tenants by attracting more shoppers.