Union vows to fight on

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

The Confederation of Trade Unions (CTU) is preparing to extend for another year picketing at all construction sites that pay less than HK$900 a day to ironworkers.

Union officials and ironworkers have picketed more than 40 sites more than 100 times over the past two weeks, calling on bar benders to stop working and join the strike. Scuffles broke out on several occasions, resulting in two workers being arrested.

CTU founder and lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan, who said a breakdown of negotiations on Friday had created a stalemate, insisted the union would keep the action going.

'Our sweep will focus on sites which pay less than HK$900 a day to the ironworkers. We will demonstrate at them constantly for up to a year until they meet our demands.'

Its rival union, the Federation of Trade Unions (FTU), agreed that it could be a good strategy, although the union's chairman, Wong Kwok-kin, questioned whether workers would be able to carry on for a whole year. Contractors said earlier that they would offer a daily wage of HK$950 to bar benders by next August, on the expiry of present contracts.

Mr Lee, who has led the workers in street action but is barred from entering negotiations, expressed disappointment at Friday's breakdown in talks, saying he was told the FTU had reached an understanding with the employers and the government before resuming negotiations.

FTU chairman Mr Wong said there had been consensus that the starting point would be a daily rate of HK$880. Contractors proposed two options - HK$850 for an eight-hour day and HK$950 for 8.5 hours - until a last-minute proposal to add HK$25 to the first option. Meanwhile, the strikers plan to move their battle to the Labour Department's headquarters in Central today, but Mr Lee said they would soon find another site as their base.