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Truck drivers go on strike at Shanghai ports

SHANGHAI, April 21, 2011 (AFP) - Hundreds of truck drivers staged a strike this week in major container ports in Shanghai, seeking higher freight rates to offset their rising fuel costs, companies and Chinese media said.

The drivers, who gathered at several ports in the city on Wednesday morning, were mostly dispersed by police later that day, the Century Weekly magazine said on its website.

However, the story -- which made no mention of any violence -- was quickly removed and state media did not report on the incident.

China's government is intensely concerned about the potential for public unrest due to anger over rising prices, particularly after inflation has been a factor in the popular uprisings that have rocked the Arab world.

The 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 Shanghai office of Ocean World Lines confirmed the strike, warning its customers of possible delays.

"Entrances to container yards have been blocked, causing delays of pick-up and receipt of containers in the Shanghai area," the New York state-based transport company said in a brief statement.

Shanghai public security officials were not available for comment and the municipal government press office declined to answer questions about the incident when contacted by AFP Thursday.

The truck drivers, who were mostly private operators, said their incomes had been squeezed by four increases in the government-set price of diesel since October, the report said. Most earned 4,000 yuan ($615) a month before.

"We cannot make any money anymore," one of the striking drivers, who was not named, was quoted as saying.

In addition to increased fuel costs, drivers were protesting what they said were unreasonably high handling fees charged by the port, ROE Logistics Inc., a Montreal-based customs broker and freight forwarder, said in a notice.

In the latest hike earlier this month, China raised prices for gasoline and diesel fuel by around five percent, citing rising global crude oil prices despite concerns about inflation in the world's second biggest economy.

The State Council, or cabinet, last week renewed a government pledge to "do everything possible to maintain price stability" and "strictly control" speculative investment in the real estate market.

MySinchew 2011.04.21


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