Negotiation over ironworkers' pay still possible, unions say

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 September, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 September, 2007, 12:00am

Talks between striking ironworkers and contractors could resume soon after the union said they were willing to adjust their pay demands.

Legislator Wong Kwok-hing of the Federation of Trade Unions said: 'Workers have restated their position. There is still room for negotiation regarding the pay rise scale. We are now waiting for a reply from the contractors.

'We just want to resolve the crisis by negotiation. We hope the contractors can show their sincerity and come back to the negotiating table.'

He said the Labour Department had been told of the situation.

As the strike entered its 30th day yesterday, the Confederation of Trade Unions suspended picketing and visits to construction sites to express its goodwill to the contractors.

CTU organising secretary Poon Man-hon said: 'Striking workers, including those who have attended protests organised by our union in the past 30 days, are willing to engage in dialogue with the employers.

'There is still room for the two parties to negotiate on the pay rise.'

The workers originally demanded HK$950 a day but dropped this to HK$900. The contractors were offering HK$850 but raised this to HK$875 at a meeting with the FTU on August 31. Unionists stormed out of negotiations, calling the contractors misers and that offer expired.

A government source said last night that if the contractors offered at least HK$875 again it was likely that deal could be reached. It is understood that the contractors were firm on their refusal to pay HK$900 a day.

A spokeswoman for the Labour Department said they would continue to mediate.

CTU leader, lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan, told a radio show the month-long strike was a milestone in Hong Kong's labour movement.

'Workers are now more aware of their rights and will not work like slaves and stand exploitation. It is difficult to solve the crisis, as our bar benders are not only fighting for their own pay rise. They are challenging the whole outsourcing system which has made workers of many industries suffer for years.'

He said the strike had united bar benders and strengthened co-operation between the CTU and the Beijing-friendly FTU. 'We never try to take part in negotiation with contractors - we leave that work to the FTU. When the FTU told us to continue our strike after the latest round of negotiation had failed, we followed their order.'

He also stressed that the union did not want a conflict with police. On Wednesday, striking bar benders scuffled with police for 20 minutes while trying to stop workers entering a construction site in Sha Tin.

Police commissioner Tang King-shing said the force just wanted to maintain public order and ensure the industrial action did not affect others.

Battling on

The state of play one month into the strike

Number of construction sites seriously affected 9

Number of bar benders who remain at work 1,170

Number of workers still on strike 400

Funds raised to help striking workers HK$700,000