Dockers in Shekou strike for higher pay

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 May, 2007, 12:00am

Port overtime protest holds up HK trucks

Operations at one of the busiest container terminals in Shenzhen are at a standstill after more than 400 dockers went on strike in a pay dispute.

Port workers at Chiwan Container Terminal in Shekou district began their industrial action at midnight on Monday.

The dock workers, most of them truck drivers and crane operators, are unhappy about wages and have accused management of failing to pay them overtime as required by labour laws on the mainland.

They staged a sit-in outside the container terminal's headquarters yesterday morning.

Dozens of police were sent to the scene to maintain order, but no violence was reported.

A management spokesman later promised that the company would 'give serious consideration' to the workers' demands. But the men were dissatisfied with the reply and continued their strike last night.

The industrial action has brought the terminal - one of the busiest in the world - to a standstill. Hong Kong truck drivers who had arrived to deliver goods said they had been waiting outside the port for hours.

Shenzhen's labour department and the official workers' union tried to intervene, but the workers were refusing to back down.

They said they would not call off the strike until management agreed to pay up.

'During peak seasons, we have to work over 12 hours a day. But we only get paid for our official working hours. That is not fair,' said a workers' representative.

A docker's income is made up of two parts - a basic salary and bonuses for each container he handles. The dockers admitted getting a bonus for work done outside official hours, but had demanded management also pay them for overtime.

One worker said: 'Many of us have sacrificed our health and spare time to work for the company. We only have one or two days rest each month. The company should treat us better. Today is International Labour Day. We decided to take industrial action today to express our anger.'

He said they would stay on strike 'as long as it takes'.

The average salary for dockers is around 4,000 yuan a month. Although this is considered high for Shenzhen, many port workers have complained that they have been underpaid.

Last month, a similar protest broke out at Yantian port, also in Shenzhen. Workers demanded salary increases and the right to set up a union. The management eventually agreed to their demands.

The terminal is the second largest container facility in the city. It is jointly managed by companies from Hong Kong and the mainland.