Kwai Tsing dock workers strike

Dock contractor Everbest sweetens pay offer

Everbest shows sincerity in proposing extra pay for a specific job function, strike leader says

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 April, 2013, 4:28am

Tensions over a dockers' strike went down a notch yesterday as one of their contractor employers made several concessions, but no consensus has been reached yet.

Organisers of the walkout would not intensify their industrial action for now, because contractor Everbest Port Services had demonstrated sincerity, said strike leader Stanley Ho Wai-hong, of the Confederation of Trade Unions.

"We hope there will be another meeting tomorrow morning … otherwise we will escalate our action tomorrow," Ho said last night after talks with both contractors in the afternoon.

We hope there will be another meeting tomorrow morning … otherwise we will escalate our action
Strike leader Stanley Ho Wai-hong

It is nearly three weeks since about 450 strikers walked off their jobs at the Kwai Tsing Container Terminals on March 28 to demand better pay and conditions.

Yesterday, Everbest proposed to the CTU a beefed-up version of a pay offer it suggested last week: on top of a 7 per cent increase, dockers who anchored arriving vessels with the use of ropes would earn an extra HK$450 per ship, up from the present HK$550 to HK$1,000.

Ho said this made it hard to estimate the actual rise in wages because only dockers who took up this role would get the extra money. The confederation is demanding HK$100 more per shift across the board, meaning a rise of about 20 per cent.

The other contractor, Global Stevedoring Service, stuck to its original offer of a 7 per cent raise, of which 2 per cent would come in the form of extra subsidies.

The meeting came to an abrupt end when a Global representative said he needed to "go home and take medicine", Ho said.

In the morning, two other unions that were not part of the strike met the same contractors to push for a 12 per cent pay rise.

The contractors' offers to the Federation of Trade Unions and the Federation of Kowloon and Hong Kong Labour Unions were different from what they proposed to the confederation, HKFLU representative Tsang Ping-fat said after the meeting.

Everbest offered 10 per cent more in wages, of which 3 per cent would be given in the form of benefits such as a year-end bonus, Tsang said. It also put up an alternative proposal in which employees would receive 7 per cent more pay this year and another 5 per cent next year.

He said Global stuck to the same proposal it presented last week, which is a raise of about 8.5 per cent, of which 1.5 per cent would go into meal allowances.

Both firms made the same concession, that they would not force dockers to work overtime. He said the two unions' demand for overtime pay of 1.5 times the current wage was not discussed.

A few hours after the meeting, another HKFLU representative, Wong Kwai-ting, said his union would not attend any more meetings if the contractors did not have anything new to offer. The FTU could not be reached for comment on the HKFLU stance. As of late last night, no more union-contractor meetings had been arranged.

Meanwhile, Australian unionists arrived in Hong Kong to support the local dockers.

Matt Purcell, one of eight representatives from the Maritime Union of Australia, said Hutchison Whampoa, which planned to open a port in Brisbane in three weeks' time and another port in Sydney a year from now, agreed to pay their dockers no less than that paid by other Australian operators, meaning about A$80,000 (HK$647,000) a year.

Hutchison is the parent firm of strike-hit port operator Hongkong International Terminals.