Dockers' unions upset at unchanged pay offer
Negotiations with pro-government unions hit the wall as contractors stick to 7pc pay rise and unionist calls meeting ‘meaningless’
Contractors' negotiations with pro-government unions bore no fruit yesterday, with one union calling a halt to the meeting as it said the contractors offered "nothing new".
The meeting was between two contractors - Everbest Port Services and Global Stevedoring Service - and the Federation of Trade Unions and the Federation of Hong Kong and Kowloon Labour Unions.
The workers under the umbrella of the Confederation of Trade Unions, who are on strike, were not represented.
FTU representatives called a halt to talks after two hours. One union member, So Pak-tsan, said the proposal the contractors put forward was no different to the one they suggested to the CTU on Thursday - raising dockers' salaries by about 7 per cent.
The union was seeking a 12 per cent pay rise for all workers, and said it would not accept the 7 per cent plan. It said the contractors were unprepared and hoped they could come up with something new before meeting them again.
Another representative called the meeting "meaningless". "I'm unhappy with the meeting. I don't think they have shown any sincerity," he said.
Everbest representative Dick Wong, however, told the media after the FTU representatives left that he found the two unions' demand for a 12 per cent pay rise "rational and more pragmatic", and his company would consider it "proactively".
Wong called on the CTU to lower its demand for a pay rise of 17 to 24 per cent, and said there was room for discussion.
He added that arrangements would be made so dockers would no longer have to work 24 hours without a break, after a consensus was reached in the talks.
Tsang Ping-fat, of the Kowloon union federation, said the meeting was constructive as it allowed both sides to understand each other's situation better. Citing a contractor, Tsang said the actual wage rise could be about 8.5 to 9.5 per cent, considering the allowances being offered.
Strike organiser Stanley Ho Wai-hong of the CTU said Wong's remark showed Everbest was sincere in the talks, but he hoped the matter could be resolved on the negotiating table, rather than through the media. He reiterated that no agreement reached in yesterday's meeting would apply to the 400 strikers.
A fund to support the strike had amassed HK$4.66 million as of Thursday, and the union distributed HK$1,500 to each worker in its fourth round of handouts.
Dozens of workers demonstrated yesterday by eating their lunch outside the Cheung Kong Center in Central, saying they hoped tycoon Li Ka-shing, who owns strike-hit operator Hongkong International Terminals, could understand their situation.
Meanwhile, the supply of disposable nappies in the city returned to normal after a short disruption over the past week because of the strike.
Lam Wai-man, vice-chairman of Hong Kong's General Chamber of Pharmacy, said that when the ships arrived, there were not enough workers to dispatch the goods at the container port, but supply was gradually returning to normal as 80 per cent of the stocks had been handled.
Parents complained on internet forums that pharmacies had run out of some popular brands.