Kwai Tsing dock workers strike

Striking dock workers are pawns in dissident campaign

Lau Nai-keung says Cheung Kong picket foreshadows Occupy Central

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 26 April, 2013, 2:27am

Industrial action is a powerful weapon during an economic upturn or in a rising industry because the employers have a lot to lose with any stoppage. This single factor accounts for the frequent and successful industrial action in the local airlines.

Sad to say this does not apply to our cargo-handling industry. This is especially true when the biggest shareholder of the company involved in the current dispute, Hongkong International Terminals (HIT), happens to own a share of an expanding container port in Yantian just next door.

Logically, Hutchison boss Li Ka-shing will be more than happy to see more cargo go to Shenzhen for higher profit, leaving room here for the more lucrative property development. Consequently, the more ludicrous the pay demands, the longer the strike, the more the conglomerate's objectives will be met.

This is the sad truth. Radical action can attract attention and excite the participating mob - which has from the beginning totally overwhelmed the originally mild industrial action, both in terms of numbers and demands, escalating it into a premature strike - but it cannot solve real problems.

Now that one of the two main contractor employers of the striking workers has said it will close down, the industrial strike has lost a prime target. Picketing Cheung Kong headquarters only served to reveal to the community the true nature of this event.

This is part of a social campaign, not industrial action. As such, it is going to lose its support and momentum and will fizzle out. Cargo terminal workers on the whole will be in a weaker position around the bargaining table than before.

Those workers who were led into participating in the strike are obviously pawns on a much bigger and more complicated chessboard, and the biggest loser in the game are those workers aged over 50. Chances are they will no longer be able to find a place in this shrinking industry, and the only employment opportunities they can find will pay even less.

It is now clear which unions have the foresight, and welfare of workers at heart, and unionist lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan will surely rank as the second-biggest loser. In the future, few workers will dare to go to him for advice and support.

It is no secret that what took place in front of Cheung Kong headquarters was but part of the "Occupy Central" campaign. To put this in a wider perspective, we are about to be dragged into a big fight instigated by our dissidents on the pretext of so-called "true universal suffrage". Despite all the fanfare in the mainstream media, this is destined to fail because it is a false cause not supported by the general population.

So far, our dissidents have failed to produce any real-life specimen of "true universal suffrage" because none exists. It all boils down to an election method that the dissidents favour. Fair enough, as this is politics, but please don't fool us with value-laden terms such as "true universal suffrage" and "civil disobedience" to artificially create a halo effect and lure some of our youths into breaking the law to suit your purpose. Doing so is utterly immoral.

Fortunately, we live in an open society and Hong Kong citizens are not that easily fooled. But this won't stop our dissidents from carrying out the Occupy Central plot. What we are looking at in the coming 20 months or so is a series of troublesome events leading up to the grand finale.

Sorry, there are no seat belts to fasten and we will all have to suffer the turbulence and perhaps some collateral damage.

We only have ourselves to blame; we know what will come and yet we are still letting Occupy Central take place.

Lau Nai-keung is a member of the Basic Law Committee of the NPC Standing Committee, and also a member of the Commission on Strategic Development