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Striking Shanghai truckers get back to work

by Staff Writers
Shanghai (AFP) April 25, 2011
Shanghai truckers said Monday they have halted a strike over high fuel costs after authorities met their demands amid fears of wider inflation-related unrest.

Trucks loaded with containers could be seen flowing out of the Waigaoqiao cargo terminal on Monday as a long line of drivers waited to pick up cargo after winning a cut in handling fees from the port authority.

"The strike is over," a 43-year-old driver who would give only his surname Wang told AFP as mechanics repaired his flatbed truck near Shanghai's Waigaoqiao cargo terminal.

Other drivers also said operations were returning to normal Monday.

Hundreds of truck drivers picketed last week at Waigaoqiao and other shipping sites in Shanghai, the world's busiest container port, calling for lower port fees to offset hikes in diesel fuel prices.

The strikes prompted a heavy police response to break up the gatherings in a sign of official fears over high inflation, which has a history of sparking unrest in China.

The Shanghai Municipal Transport and Port Authority published a set of proposals late Friday in response to the strikers' demands, abolishing or reducing various fees incurred by drivers.

Wang said drivers resumed work because they were satisfied with the government's offer.

"Fees for moving containers were cut by 30 yuan ($4.60), that's satisfying," he said, adding that his employer had offered to cover any rises in the cost of fuel.

Transport firms at the Baoshan cargo terminal, the other main centre for strike activity, also told AFP by phone that operations were returning to normal.

Shipping and logistics companies have not reported any major impact on shipments from the strikes.

Shanghai's state-controlled media mentioned the issue Monday for the first time since strikes began last Wednesday, saying authorities would cancel some container yard fees and reduce select toll charges by about 10 percent.

China's government is on edge over spiralling prices, particularly after inflation became a factor in the popular uprisings that have rocked the Arab world.

China's consumer price index rose 5.4 percent year-on-year in March -- the fastest pace since July 2008 and well above the government's 2011 target of four percent.

The government has raised petrol and diesel prices three times since December.

Soaring prices of food and housing have also become top public concerns, prompting Premier Wen Jiabao to pledge new efforts to contain costs in an annual address to China's parliament last month.

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