Dock workers' strike stakes rise as others join the action
Truckers' union calls on members to take sick leave to support the dockers, as HIT continues to deny demands of contractor-bound workers
The dispute between striking dockers and the container port operator escalated yesterday, with thousands of the workers and their supporters staging a protest march.
Meanwhile, the city's 20,000 truck drivers were urged to show their support by going on sick leave today.
As the strike entered its 11th day, the 500 dock workers on strike marched with their supporters from Causeway Bay's Victoria Park to Central's Cheung Kong Center - where tycoon Li Ka-shing works - and then on to the government's Tamar headquarters in Admiralty.
Port operator Hongkong International Terminals (HIT) is a subsidiary of Li's Hutchison Whampoa. The Confederation of Trade Unions, the protest organiser, said 4,000 people took part. Police put the number at 2,800.
Video: No bathrooms and 24-hour shifts – the life of a dock workhorse
One striking docker, Wong Ming, said that while he was aware of the impact their industrial action had on the city's economy, the workers had to fight for their rights. "We have contributed to the economy for so many years. We have the right to fight for what we deserve," he said.
The dockers are seeking a 17 per cent pay rise and say their pay has gone up only once in 15 years.
HIT managing director Gerry Yim Lui-fai earlier said his company was losing HK$5 million a day because of the walkout.
HIT was due to meet another group of dockers this morning - those directly employed by the operator - to discuss their demands. But it continues to ignore pleas for talks from dockers employed by contractors.
Meanwhile, the Logistics Industry and Container Truck Drivers Union has called on its 1,200 members and the rest of the city's 20,000 truck drivers to go on collective sick leave today in support of the strike. The union said it was also pressing the drivers' employers for a 10 per cent pay rise. The hourly wage of truck drivers has dropped from HK$55 in 1998 to HK$40, it said.
Union of Hong Kong Dockers spokesman Stanley Ho Wai-hong said: "Every wise man will understand that people should not use the economy as an excuse to say that the dockers should not fight for their rights."
Separately, the Liberal Party's youth committee chairman, Dominic Lee Tsz-king, criticised the politicisation of the dispute during yesterday's City Forum in Victoria Park. Slamming the CTU for insisting that it would meet the contractors only if all of them showed up, he said: "With the intervention of unions and politicians, the workers are not getting what they have been fighting for."
Police made one arrest at yesterday's protest - an activist they had been looking for over allegations of unlawful assembly on April 1 last year. Yang Kuang said plainclothes officers stopped him as he was leaving the government headquarters. Yang will appear at Eastern Court on April 29.