Bar benders reject employers' pay offer Negotiations between striking ironworkers and their employers collapsed yesterday when unionists stormed out, calling the contractors 'misers'. The Federation of Trade Unions, which led the negotiations for the workers, rejected a new proposal from the bar bending contractors to add HK$25 to the HK$850 daily wage they offered on August 12. The union was also not happy with an offer to extend the lunch break by 15 minutes in answer to their request for an eight-hour day. FTU lawmaker Wong Kwok-hing said the employers' proposal was not acceptable. 'The workers want to be out of work half an hour earlier, not to have breaks here and there. This is just not what we wanted.' Another representative, the chairman of the Hong Kong Construction Industry Employees General Union, Choi Chun-wa, said the contractors had been 'the same old misers and repeated their old stance. They were fooling us around'. Mr Choi had said that workers had made a big concession in reducing their demand for HK$950 to HK$900 for an eight-hour day. But the president of the contractors association, Tsang Ting-fat, said the workers' proposal amounted to an increment of 16 per cent, which was not achievable. 'Our profit margin in these construction projects is merely 3 to 5 per cent. By proposing a daily wage of HK$875 we would already be operating at a loss.' Chief labour officer Bertha Cheng Wai-yue said the Labour Department had done its best to mediate and that while there had been no settlement, the difference between the two parties had narrowed. The union said the bar benders - workers who lay the metal bars that form the skeleton of buildings - would continue their strike. Meanwhile, residents and business operators in Ho Man Tin have urged the bar benders to move their protest headquarters elsewhere, amid fears it could cause traffic chaos when school starts next week. During the strike - in its 25th day today - workers have gathered at a construction site in Kau Pui Lung Road, Ho Man Tin, and sometimes disrupted traffic in the narrow road. Residents' representative Yang Wing-kit said she feared that when school started, students would be put at risk because of traffic and situations arising from the protest. 'Not only would it be difficult to listen to what is said in the class, students' safety would be at risk if they are curious enough to gather near the protest site,' he said. Police are discussing school bus arrangements with about 10 schools. The general secretary of the Confederation of Trade Unions, lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan, who is leading the strike, said it would be difficult to move to a new location but he would discuss traffic arrangements with police. 'We can extend the striking zone farther down the street, particularly in off-school hours, so we would minimise the chance of obstructing a traffic lane during the busy period.' About 200 workers burnt incense outside the construction site yesterday to pray for victory. The roadside was filled with offerings of roasted pigs and packages of fruit. Casual bar bender Ho Sek-pui said it was the first time in years workers had spoken out for their rights after the economic downturn. 'If we don't do so, the situation will not improve.' But they remain unwelcome in the neighbourhood. Kowloon City district councillor Li Lin said that the protesters should consider the impact of the strike in pondering their next step. 'It seems that the end will never come. We are quite mystified why they chose this quiet residential area to stage this movement.' Car accessory vendor Lam Chun-kit said he was losing HK$3,000 a day because of traffic curbs during the protest. 'Our customers are drivers. Whenever there is traffic control, our businesses will be affected.' Tyre shop owner Hung Po, who said he had suffered a 90 per cent loss of business, agreed. 'People avoid driving to Tin Kwong Road, as they fear the protest will turn into a mob.' CTU organising secretary Poon Man-hon called for understanding from the community, stressing that the workers had made many concessions.