A labour dispute at a construction site led to more than 30 workers blocking a busy road for more than half an hour near a Hong Kong public hospital on Tuesday.
Officers including personnel from the Police Tactical Unit – usually deployed for crowd control – were called to the scene along Pok Fu Lam Road near Queen Mary Hospital at about 8.45am, after reports that between 30 and 40 workers had blocked the site’s entrance and occupied the four-lane road.
“Due to an emergency incident, all lanes of Pok Fu Lam Road near Queen Mary Hospital were closed to all traffic,” the Transport Department said in a statement at 9.04am, adding that affected bus routes had been diverted and motorists advised to use alternative routes. At 9.31am, it said all the affected lanes had been reopened to traffic.
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A police spokesman said the Central-bound lanes were reopened shortly after officers arrived and persuaded workers to leave the road and return to the pavement. No arrests were made.
Some 100 workers involved in the dispute were part of a subcontractor company at the hospital’s redevelopment site, a Queen Mary spokesman said, adding the company’s contract with the main contractor was in the process of being terminated.
Ambulance and clinical services remained unaffected, the hospital said.
According to the Hong Kong Construction Industry Employees General Union, more than 100 workers realised they were laid off when they returned to the site on Tuesday.
The layoff involved about HK$3 million (US$385,800) in October wages which had not been paid to the workers.
“The workers were told their belongings [such as clothes and tools stored in lockers on the site] had been thrown away, prompting dissatisfaction among the workers who then occupied the road to protest,” the union said.
During the negotiation involving the union and Labour Department, the main contractor and subcontractor admitted they had mishandled the dismissal of workers.
The subcontractor apologised to the workers involved and said they would each get HK$500 as compensation for the loss of their belongings.
The dispute ended when the main contractor agreed to pay half a day’s salary to workers who had returned to the site on Tuesday. It would also pay out October’s wages within seven days to related intermediaries, who would then transfer the money to the workers.