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June 6, 2011

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Fish market fees strike to continue

ALTHOUGH he was still wearing his galoshes, Wu Degui was not rushing out with a trolley to meet trucks carrying loads of live fish yesterday, as he would usually do.

Instead, Wu, a stall holder at Shanghai's biggest aquatic wholesale market on Tongchuan Road in Putuo District, was trying to take a nap at his desk yesterday afternoon.

Around him stood containers that would normally be teeming with fish, but which were empty.

About 200 vendors have been on strike for almost a week in protest at what they say is an increase in parking fees from 20 yuan (US$3.09) to as much as 500 yuan. The market has 500 to 600 stalls.

Stall holders are protesting at increased fees to be charged on trucks entering the market. These would range from 200 yuan to 500 yuan, depending on their loading volumes.

Vendors say the increased transporter costs will be passed on to them, and they will have to increase their prices in turn, making them less competitive.

"No fish today," Wu told customers who ventured in.

The stalls around Wu's had their shutters closed and equipment packed away. In the far distance, one vendor could be seen emptying newly bought trout into buckets - a sign that part of the market was still open for business.

"I have never seen so many stalls closed before," said Wu, who has worked at the market for 12 years. He estimated these days' strike cost him about 5,000 to 6,000 yuan.

"It's robbery," said Wang Bin, a transporter, who was furious at the hike but felt he had no choice but to pay.

Otherwise, the security guards would not let the vehicles stay, Wang said.

Transporters were suffering losses for each trip, he claimed.

In response, the market operator yesterday called off the fee increase and said the whole affair was "a misunderstanding."

Tang Tailai, one of the market managers, said the charge was not for parking, but a management fee to be levied on unauthorized transporters doing wholesale business in the market. They did not pay rents but still sold products to retailers, causing problems in the market, said Tang.

But Tang admitted staff may have charged every vehicle without checking details.

Despite the fee being removed for authorized transporters, stall holders were suspicious. "I do not believe them," said one stall holder, who feared charges would increase again within days.

Vendors said the strike would continue.

Meanwhile, retailers who had hoped to buy stocks of live fish surveyed empty stalls.

Retailer Liu Minshui said: "The math is simple. Once the market raises fares, wholesalers increase prices and it passes down the chain."


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