More than 1,500 workers protested yesterday against unemployment and imported labour in the biggest rally Macau has seen since demonstrations against the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown. Scuffles with police broke out during a one-hour stand-off when a group of demonstrators wanted to divert from an agreed route. Police let some of the protesters march through the main thoroughfare, the Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro, resulting in a huge traffic jam. Activists said a series of sit-down protests would also be staged in the coming days. Pro-democracy legislator Antonio Ng Kuok-cheong mediated between protesters and police. One reporter was slightly injured and several police and protesters knocked over. The two-hour march, from the Areia Preta district to the main square near the mainland border, was staged mostly by unemployed construction and factory workers and their families. The protest, the second of its kind this month to see scuffles between demonstrators and police, was organised by an association of Catholic, Protestant, pro-labour and pro-democracy forces. Urban Councillor Au Kam-san, of the pro-democracy New Macau Association, said: 'It was meant to show the Government how serious the unemployment problem is.' He called on the administration to drastically reduce the number of imported workers from the mainland, the Philippines and elsewhere. 'We urge the Government to immediately reduce imported labour to 10 per cent of the local workforce,' Mr Au said. Some 28,000 of Macau's 217,000-strong workforce are imported labourers, mainly mainlanders and Filipinos - 13 per cent of the total. The official unemployment rate stands at 6.7 per cent, but labour activists claim it is 10 per cent. One of the placards paraded by protesters read: 'Give us back our rice bowls.' Another portrayed Macau businessmen as bats drinking workers' blood. A third read: 'Macau businessmen run the Macau Government by remote control.' One 35-year-old construction worker said: 'I have been unemployed for over half a year, and I can't get a job because of all those imported workers from the mainland who work for just 2,000 patacas [HK$2,000] a month. Our Chief Executive only cares about businessmen.' Chief Executive Edmund Ho Hau-wah is on a visit to Portugal. The protesters accused Macau's powerful pro-Beijing General Labour Unions Association of failing to address labour problems. 'The pro-Beijing labour unions are a big joke. They are stooges of the Government and big business,' a 23-year-old unemployed textile worker said. Representatives of the demonstrators handed a protest letter to a government representative, demanding a meeting with top officials next Thursday. The Macau Government issued a statement before yesterday's protest, saying it 'perfectly understands the difficult situation of unemployed workers'. Macau has suffered real negative growth in gross domestic product since 1996. But the Government says some segments of the economy are showing signs of recovery.