Container port operator 'trying to divide us'
Strikers say Hongkong International Terminals is using an offer of a HK$5,000 bonus for compliant workers to weaken solidarity
Ada Lee and Amy Nip
Strikers accused Hongkong International Terminals of trying to divide them yesterday after the port operator offered a HK$5,000 bonus to workers who performed their duties in the past week or resumed work today.
HIT's move came on the ninth day of the strike at Kwai Tsing terminals, and as the High Court allowed up to 80 strikers to return to the terminals to continue picketing.
The port operator said last night it would hand out HK$3,000 within three days to each docker who had worked in the past week and another HK$2,000 if the port's operation "returns to normal" one month later. Its statement said the arrangement applied to both contract workers and those directly employed under HIT.
A spokesman added that if a worker resumed duty today, he would receive the same money. But workers who returned later would get nothing.
According to union figures, the total number of dockers working at the sections of the port operated by HIT is about 2,300. About 500 of them are on strike. That means the offer could cost the company at least HK$9 million.
Managing director Gerry Yim Lui-fai had said the strike was costing the company HK$5 million a day.
Chan Lit-ki, a checker on ships employed by contractor Everbest, said some workers might be tempted by the offer. "But for me, [the offer] means nothing," he said. "The HK$3,000 is only equal to 10 days' salary. Why should I care?"
Chan criticised the company for using money to divide the workers. He said the contractor had texted him and a few colleagues, telling them to go to work last night, but they ignored the message.
Another worker, a Mr Chan who is employed by Lem Wing as a crane controller, said he expected the workers to continue to strike. "If HIT is giving out money like that, why doesn't it just increase our wage?" he said. "I won't give in. It's not like HIT is giving us HK$3,000 every month."
A fund set up to support the strike had received more than HK$2 million by yesterday, and each striker has received HK$1,000.
The Federation of Hong Kong and Kowloon Labour Unions refused to comment and HIT Group Employees General Union, which organised a work-to-rule campaign among workers directly employed under HIT, could not be reached for comment last night.
Meanwhile, the Communications Authority had received 1,800 complaints by Thursday about TVB programme Scoop 's reporting on the strike. Its episode on Monday received 486 complaints.
The complainants said the programme was biased, misleading and did not give enough airtime to the strikers.
TVB said it had received 47 complaints from the audience, and the broadcaster had no particular stance.