Ironworkers' bargaining power 'waning'

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 September, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 September, 2007, 12:00am

Ironworkers who have been on strike for 25 days are unaware that they have limited bargaining power, according to a source close to their pay negotiations.

Although a third of the city's 3,000 bar benders have joined the strike, the impact on contractors is fading, the source said, and most of the strikers do not even have jobs.

'Sure, about 100 who protest outside the Ho Man Tin site every day are hardcore strikers who refuse job offers, but many are actually without a job. They return to work when they have offers and are replaced by others who don't have jobs that day,' he said.

But the Confederation of Trade Unions (CTU) said there were at least 300 hardcore strikers.

Government statistics show that the number of construction sites seriously disrupted by the strike dwindled from 30 to nine in the week to August 29.

The source said the workers believed their struggle was paying off because both Sun Hung Kai Properties and Henderson Land had earlier given in to their demands for daily pay of HK$950. But he said many major developers had refused to yield.

SHKP and Henderson Land refused to comment when asked to confirm the situation.

The government - which owns 40 per cent of all construction sites - is not prepared to shoulder the extra costs, not just because this would require approval from the Legislative Council for extra funding but because it would be unfair to contractors who missed out on projects because their bids were too high.

On Saturday the Hong Kong Bar-bending Contractors Association said labour expenses accounted for 90 per cent of its costs. Talks between workers and employers broke down for the sixth time on Friday.

Wong Kwok-kin, the chairman of the Federation of Trade Unions who is representing workers in the talks, agreed it was difficult to get employers to accept the workers' revised proposal of HK$900 for an eight-hour day.

He said they were unable to persuade workers to make further concessions because this would be regarded as treachery at such a heated stage of the dispute.

The union staged a rally at the Central Government Offices yesterday, protesting against contractors' rejection of their proposal for a daily wage of HK$900.

Five hundred bar benders - who lay iron girders that form a building's skeleton - said they were confident that they would triumph in the end.

One striker said he believed developers and contractors would not be able to hold out for much longer because they were losing millions of dollars a day.

The Labour and Welfare Bureau said it would continue to try its best to restart negotiations.

Meanwhile, independent lawmaker 'Long Hair' Leung Kwok-hung and eight others distributed leaflets outside a new development in To Kwa Wan, urging buyers to boycott property sales to express disapproval at developers' lack of social responsibility.

Resolve melting

On August 22 about 30 construction sites were seriously disrupted by the strike. A week later this had dropped to: 9