Watsons workers set to stay on strike
Half of the orders for Watsons Water will fail to reach customers today, as delivery workers remain on strike for a third day.
About 200 went on strike on Wednesday over demands that the company hire more staff and increase their allowances. Yesterday afternoon, they protested outside the A.S. Watson & Co offices in Tai Po.
The union said the strikers accounted for two-thirds of the delivery workers, and since the action began deliveries had dropped by half, to 20,000 bottles of distilled water a day.
About 70 people continued the protest last night.
Union organiser Leung Wai-yam said the staff shortage had greatly increased their workload, while their wages were HK$2,000 to HK$5,000 a month behind those paid by competitors. The workers earn an average of HK$13,000 a month.
He said the company had shown disrespect to the union by demanding it accept its offer of concessions by noon yesterday. The union did not have sufficient time to make counterproposals, he said.
A spokesman for Watsons said last night that it was disappointed an agreement could not be reached, 'as the [workers] kept making additional demands at the negotiating table'. He said the meeting had been adjourned.
The company, a subsidiary of tycoon Li Ka-shing's Hutchison Whampoa, agreed to union requests to pay an additional monthly attendance allowance of HK$2,000 for three months.
It said it would also increase commission by 3 per cent and the regular attendance allowance by 5 per cent from next year.
The spokesman said the company could not agree to the union's request to maintain the HK$2,000 additional attendance allowance after the three-month period ended.
Leung said the union wanted to continue talks with the company. 'We want them to stop contracting out services and solve the problem of staff shortages. Fighting for a higher salary is not our prime intention,' he said.
The union said in a statement last night the company had 'refused to talk about the core issues'.
'The union appealed to Watsons Water to understand the hard toil of frontline workers. It should not continue to contract out services without hiring more staff, when our workload is increasing,' it said.
The company spokesman said the offers reflected the sincerity of Watsons efforts, 'despite the prevalent economic situation'. It had raised workers' pay twice in the past six months, he said. The company apologised to its customers and hoped the workers would accept its offer and return to work.
The number of bottles of Watsons distilled water that will not reach Hong Kong consumers today because of a strike by delivery workers