60 building sites paralysed as strike rolls on

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 August, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 August, 2007, 12:00am

Metalworkers vow to extend industrial action another month

Work on at least 60 construction sites was at a standstill yesterday as striking metalworkers vowed to continue their pay protest for another month.

The Confederation of Trade Unions, which took over negotiations on Monday, said the strike would continue until employers met workers' demands and urged builders to consider the cost of legal claims arising from project delays.

But the Construction Association said there was no room to manoeuvre. The welders and bar benders, who perform a key role in making the framework for concrete pours on construction sites, are seeking an increase from HK$800 a day to HK$950, while the employers have offered HK$850.

The rolling strikes have affected operations at eight to 10 of main contractor China State Construction International's work sites over the past few days, according to the company's vice-chairman and chief executive, Sammy Zhou Yong.

Yesterday morning, about 300 workers continued their protest into the seventh day outside a construction site in Kau Pui Lung Road, Ho Man Tin, chanting slogans and singing songs.

Vowing to carry on until the demands were met, CTU leader Lee Cheuk-yan said: 'Contractors and developers are losing lots of money because of the industrial action and they will open up a discussion and agree to our demands eventually.'

He said delays to projects could prompt legal claims from developers that would inflict losses far higher than the workers' demanded pay rise. Refusing to budge, Construction Association chairman Conrad Wong Tin-cheung said the metalworkers' wages served as a benchmark for wages in other construction jobs. 'If we agree to a huge pay rise, other industries will make the same request,' he said.

He rejected Mr Lee's contention about legal claims for delays, saying the industry had told developers that contractors should not be held liable for losses arising from unforeseeable factors, such as industrial action.

The Construction Industry Bar-Bending Workers' Union - an affiliate of CTU's rival, the Federation of Trade Unions, which had led the action until Monday - did not have representatives at the site yesterday.

Union chairman Luk Kwan-ngai said the CTU would handle the action until the FTU took over again. The FTU was also waiting for the employers to make the first move.

Acting Chief Executive Henry Tang Ying-yen said labour minister Matthew Cheung Kin-chung had been doing his best to work out a solution between the two parties and would continue the effort.

He called on workers to resolve the dispute with the employers in a sensible and peaceful manner.

Other unions, including the Construction Site Workers' General Union, the Women Workers' Association, and the Cleaning Workers' Union, offered to support the demonstrators.

But a planned march by more than 700 workers from the construction site to government headquarters in Central had to be called off yesterday after a march request submitted on Monday by legislator Leung Kwok-hung was rejected by police.

Mr Leung planned to lead a march from Kau Pui Lung Road to the Central Government Offices, with half of the workers crossing the harbour by bus and the rest by ferry. The march was scheduled for 2pm yesterday.

'We received an application for public procession from Kau Pui Lung Road to the CGO [on Monday]. The application was filed less than 24 hours [in advance], and the proposed route for their march involved many busy districts,' Kowloon City district commander Lau Yip-shing said.

'We would have had to make lots of arrangements involving owners of apartments and government departments, and inconvenience would have been caused to members of the public. We have already informed the applicant that the police have rejected the application.'