About 100 dockers demanding a pay rise vowed to continue a sit-in protest at the Kwai Chung Container Terminal on Thursday after a meeting with their employer earlier in the day failed to settle the dispute.
The demonstration began on Thursday morning, when a minor scuffle with security guards erupted at one of the gates when workers tried to enter container terminal 6 to stage their sit-in.
At least four people, including the guards, were reportedly injured.
The protest and scuffle blocked traffic near the gate, forcing container trucks to use other gates to enter the port.
The dockers are employees of contractors that work with port operator Hong Kong International Terminals, a subsidiary of billionaire Li Ka-shing’s company, Hutchison Whampoa.
The dockers are asking for a meeting with the management of Hong Kong International Terminals and a 17-per-cent pay rise, saying their wages had not gone up in 15 years.
A meeting on Thursday afternoon between the dockers and contractors, at which they offered a HK$3 an hour pay rise, failed to settle the dispute.
Workers said the offer was far short of the HK$12.5 per hour increase they are asking for.
Ho Wai-hong, a spokesman for the Union of Hong Kong Dockers, which is helping the strikers, said their present wages were even lower than 1997 levels.
“The workers are boiling with anger over this and decided they must come out now,” Ho said.
Gerry Yim, managing director of port operator Hong Kong International Terminals, said the dockers should take their demands to the contractors who hired them instead of involving the port operator.
Yim said the company had increased payments to the contractors over the past two years and asked them to use part of the increase to raise the dockers’ wages.
Yim also said the strikers’ actions had breached international safety rules on port areas and jeopardised Hong Kong’s reputation as an efficient shipping port.
“The port is like the restricted area inside the airport where you can’t arbitrarily go in,” he said.
But the union accused the port operator of shirking its responsibility. They vowed to continue the protest until their employers offered a bigger increase.