Negotiators settle airport works row
THE Provisional Airport Authority and construction contractors have ended their row over contract conditions which has delayed work by more than a month.
In a breakthrough after nearly five hours of talks, negotiators agreed to the setting up of an independent disputes resolution panel to settle claims as they arose.
This was the most contentious issue. The two sides agreed on changes to four other key contract conditions last week.
The Hong Kong Construction Association had called the original conditions ''onerous beyond belief'' and said any firm which accepted them would easily face bankruptcy.
Association representatives will meet 26 contractors this morning to recommend they accept the proposal.
These are the firms most directly affected by the dispute because they have been shortlisted for four advance works contracts that have been delayed for weeks by a contractors' boycott.
If accepted, the plan will go to the association's council and the authority board for formal approval. Both sides are keen to move, and the go-ahead is expected in separate meetings later today.
Yesterday's meeting also agreed on two other changes guaranteeing the authority will be unable to alter or water down the new conditions after construction begins.
Contractors had feared that once work began, the authority could overturn its agreement, replacing the negotiated conditions with special clauses just as onerous as the ones before.
The authority, expecting a favourable decision, has announced already a revised tender date for bids to build foundations for the airport passenger terminal.
Submissions are now due in on Monday.
Tenders for the remaining three jobs - water pipelines, temporary roads and site accommodation - will be returned by May 5.
''Contractors who have been chosen for the foundations contract have already done a lot of work on their bid so they are unlikely to object to the relatively short period to complete their bid,'' commented an association source.
''The other firms have been given a week.
''Obviously we are expecting a favourable decision because this is in keeping with the association's original request that firms be given an extra seven days following an overall agreement,'' he said.
Details of the disputes panel are being kept secret until after today's meeting, but industry insiders confirmed that panel members would have detailed knowledge of the construction industry and be independent of the authority and the association.
''It could consist of two or three people or just one. But they will have to be expert in what they do. Half a dozen will be too many,'' he said.
No details have been released about the type of disputes that will be heard, or who will pay for the meetings.