Bar benders end strike after deal on pay, hours

Agnes Lam

Bar benders called off their 36-day strike last night after their seventh round of talks with employers.

About 200 of the strikers voted unanimously, after a meeting between their representatives and contractors, to accept the latest offer of a daily wage of HK$860 for eight hours of work - a rise of 14.24 per cent.

In another concession, contractors agreed to bar benders' demands for a review of their salary package in March next year.

After the deal was reached, legislator Lee Cheuk-yan, of the Confederation of Trade Unions, told the strikers: 'Having eight hours' work is what we wanted most. This is an achievement we have made in this labour movement. Some of you might feel disappointed, some of you might think this is not enough, but our negotiators have tried very hard.'

Yesterday's talks at the Labour Department headquarters in Sheung Wan - the seventh formal meeting between the bar benders and contractors - had begun at 3.15pm in a bid to break the deadlock.

Striking workers gathered outside the Harbour Building throughout the meeting. When the final proposal was put to them at around 9pm, they gave a unanimous show of hands to accept the employers' offer, disregarding a call by the pro-Beijing Federation of Trade Unions for only licensed bar benders to take part in a secret ballot.

The workers had previously turned down an offer of HK$880 for a working day of eight hours and 15 minute, demanding HK$900 a day instead.

Tsang Tang-fat, chairman of the Bar Benders Contractors' Association, said after last night's settlement: 'I am happy that after six hours of meeting, we have finally reached an agreement. I would like to thank my fellow members for putting workers' interests before their own.'

The prolonged strike affected at least 10 government construction sites, as well as several private developments throughout the city.

The strikers had taken their protests to the streets of Hong Kong, as well as to several building sites - leading to at times violent confrontations.