Unionists arrested after organising protest for ironworkers

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 August, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 August, 2007, 12:00am

Three unionists helping ironworkers in their fight for a pay rise were arrested last night for instigating an illegal assembly.

Ng Koon-kwan and Mung Siu-tat, of the Confederation of Trade Unions (CTU), and Mak Tak-ching, of the Neighbourhood and Worker's Service Centre, were arrested after helping to organise a protest for the striking workers.

'We were taken away from the ground floor of the CTU on Nathan Road and were told we were suspected of instigating an illegal assembly,' Mr Ng said. Over the past three days, the unionists have been backing hundreds of ironworkers in their fight for a pay rise.

'When we were in the station, they said they arrested us because we refused to give them our ID cards. It is simply not true,' Mr Ng added.

The three were quickly released. No charges were laid and no statements were taken.

'The three refused to hand in their ID documents so they were taken to a police station.' a spokesman said.

'They were released after police confirmed their identities.'

'We just try to help the workers fight for their rights. What is wrong with that?' Mr Ng said, adding they would march from Ho Man Tin to the government headquarters today.

Earlier yesterday, 600 striking ironworkers marched from a construction site in To Kwa Wan to Yau Ma Tei MTR station. It was the third day of the strike.

Their employers have refused a demand for a pay rise from HK$800 a day to HK$950 and for a maximum working day of eight hours.

Mr Ng had called on employers' representatives to meet the workers at the MTR station without success.

At one point, workers refused to leave the MTR station, but they later dispersed peacefully.

Mr Ng complained that the employers had been unresponsive.

Negotiations collapsed on Thursday when dozens of workers stormed into the Tsuen Wan venue where the meeting was taking place.

Mr Ng said about 100 ironworkers from Macau - members of the Construction Site Workers General Union - also marched.

The Hong Kong Construction Industry Employees General Union revealed last night that a little progress was made during yesterday's negotiation. The parties failed to reach a consensus on the wage issue and would meet again on Monday, but they had struck a deal on shorter working hours.

'Both parties agreed that the working hours will be eight hours and 15 minutes,' the union said, adding that shifts would run from 8am to 6pm, with lunch and a 15-minute break at 10am.

Under existing regulations, they have to work about 10 hours a day.

The Construction Association, which represents the employers, proposed raising the daily wage to HK$850 and agreed to backdate the rise to August 1.