Striking dockers will talk to contractors if port operator attends
Workers say they will negotiate with contractors over their demand for better pay and conditions, but only if port operator HIT also attends
Striking dock workers say they are prepared to sit down and talk with employers, but only if the city's biggest port operator as well as the three major contractors take part.
Their bottom line for negotiations to start, they said last night, was to meet representatives from Hongkong International Terminals (HIT) along with contractors Everbest Port Services, Global Stevedoring Services and Pui Kee Stevedore Company.
The strikers spoke after a meeting yesterday, the 10th day of the strike, which was attended by more than 400 dockers.
Last night, a spokeswoman for HIT - owned by billionaire Li Ka-shing - said the firm had no comment on the demand for it to send representatives to talks.
HIT, which operates five of the nine container terminals at Kwai Tsing, has previously insisted it has nothing to do with the employment of contract workers.
The strike, which involves about 500 dockers, had affected cargo imports and increased pressure on dock operations, Willy Lin Sun-mo, chairman of the Hong Kong Shippers' Council, which represents importers and exporters, said. The effects were still minimal, but ships might switch to ports in Guangdong or even to Singapore if the strike continued, Lin warned.
Stanley Ho Wai-hong, from the Union of Hong Kong Dockers, said: "We've heard that workers still working are shouldering additional hours and shifts, so the resentment has been building."
The industrial action began on March 28 to demand better work conditions and a 17 per cent pay rise - dockers say their wages have risen only once in 15 years.
Acting chief executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor urged the strikers and their employers - as well as the port operator - to "all show concerted effort" in handling the dispute peacefully. She said the Labour Department would try its best as mediator.
Dockers hope the government can arrange a meeting soon. Talks are expected to be long. At noon yesterday, some of the strikers re-entered Terminal Six after the High Court relaxed HIT's injunction that had kept them out since Monday.
The strikers each received HK$1,500 from a fund set up to support the walkout, up from the HK$1,000 they got previously.
Ho said strikers, their families and supporters, would meet at Victoria Park at 3pm today and march to the Cheung Kong Center in Central, then to the government headquarters in Admiralty.