Bosses claim strike has been politicised

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 September, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 September, 2007, 12:00am

Resolution of bar benders' dispute delayed by competing unions, contractors say

Contractors have accused labour unions of politicising the bar benders' marathon pay dispute, as striking workers extended their battle to property developers yesterday.

The chairman of the Bar-bending Contractors' Association, Tsang Tang-fat, said labour unions with different political backgrounds were making it difficult to resolve the dispute.

'The whole incident is getting very political with two parties trying to gain support from voters, as the 2008 election is approaching. Their participation in the whole incident is making the strike very political and difficult to resolve,' he said.

The Beijing-friendly Federation of Trade Unions and its rival, the pro-democracy Confederation of Trade Unions, are both involved in the dispute.

Mr Tsang said his association would meet soon to discuss the strike but said it was impossible to increase the casual workers' daily wage to HK$900 as the workers wanted.

'How can our association afford to give workers a 20 to 30 per cent pay rise?' Mr Tsang said.

But legislator and CTU leader Lee Cheuk-yan, who has been organising protests, said Mr Tsang should engage in dialogue with workers.

'Mr Tsang should not divert attention to other matters. We are just fighting for a decent salary for our workers,' he said.

Unionist legislator Wong Kwok-hing of the FTU also criticised Mr Tsang for making excuses for not going back to the negotiation table.

'The comment shows the association is not willing to take up its social responsibilities. Different organisations are helping the workers and offering them help from the bottom of their hearts. This is not about politics at all,' he said.

The Labour and Welfare Bureau said it would continue to mediate between the two parties.

About 200 workers gathered outside the Labour Department offices in Central yesterday to continue their fight for a pay rise.

Three groups of striking workers, with 50 in each team, marched to the offices of the Real Estate Developers Association, Cheung Kong (Holdings) and Hang Lung Group and demonstrated at about 2pm.

'Property developers are making a fortune at the expense of the bar benders' hard work. They should share profits made by the workers,' Mr Lee said. Petition letters were submitted to representatives of the association and the two companies in Central.

Earlier in the day, about 20 striking workers picketed a construction site at Yeung Uk Road in the hope of persuading more bar benders to join the strike.

As they were talking to a group of workers who were considering working at the site, about 17 men got out of a van and approached them, CTU organising co-ordinator Mung Siu-tat said.

'Our workers overheard some construction site supervisors saying they needed a group of triad members to escort bar benders who want to work so that they would not be disturbed by striking workers,' he said. 'Striking workers called the police, and officers noted down information from the 17 men's identity cards.'

A police spokeswoman said patrolling officers intercepted 17 men at the junction of Ho Pui Street and Chuen Lung Street in Tsuen Wan at about 9.30am yesterday.

'Officers found them suspicious and questioned them. But no criminal element was found and the group was released at the scene,' she said.