Kwai Tsing dock workers strike

80 more dockers join strike as fresh talks fail

Workers from yet another contractor walk off the job, doubting a promised pay rise will happen; latest negotiations yield no progress

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 03 May, 2013, 5:40am

More than 80 dockers have walked off the job to join the industrial action that enters its 40th day on Monday as the fifth round of talks involving the strikers, a main contractor and the port operator ended without progress.

The new strikers, from contractor Comcheung Human Resources, walked out of the Kwai Tsing container terminals yesterday morning, saying their employer had not fulfilled an earlier promise to increase wages. There are now 530 workers taking part in the strike.

Comcheung docker Wong Lin-yan said 150 dockers from the contractor had initially joined the strike at its start on March 28. But they returned to work the following day after the company promised to raise their pay by almost 20 per cent, in two increments, by the end of next year, he said. "But it was not written in black and white. We fear that this [promise] will not come true and so we decided to join the strike," Wong said. "We make HK$1,315 for a 24-hour shift. It's worse than it was 20 years ago. At that time, we made over HK$1,400 per shift."

A few hours after the Comcheung dockers joined the strike, the contractor posted notices at the terminal that detailed how the pay rise would be carried out.

The contractor divides a 24-hour shift into three sub-shifts, with the first lasting 10 hours, the second six hours, and the third eight hours.

The notices said there would be a 15 per cent rise for the first sub-shift; a 6.5 per cent rise for the second one; and a 6.5 per cent rise for the third. Dockers said that under that proposal, workers who did all three shifts consecutively would only be making 9 per cent more than they were at present.

Wong said he would not return to work as the current offer was far less than the 20 per cent they were seeking. Comcheung had about 180 dockers, he said, and the precise number who had joined the strike was still being determined.

The latest round of negotiations involving the Union of Hong Kong Dockers, contractor Everbest Port Services and port operator Hongkong International Terminals (HIT) failed to yield any breakthroughs.

Union spokesman Stanley Ho Wai-hong said Everbest was being "insincere", presenting the same proposal it had before and so it was rejected again. Everbest suggested a 7 per cent pay rise this year and another 5 per cent one next year.

The union has been seeking a 20 per cent rise but said recently it would accept an offer that was in the "double digits".

Everbest representative Dick Wong Chi-tak said he hoped the union could arrange a meeting with the contractor's 300 strikers to speak with them directly, which Ho said he could arrange.

Ho also said that at the meeting an HIT representative announced a different contractor would take over some of the 170 dockers employed by Global Stevedoring Service, which closed down on Wednesday. Ho gave the name of the new contractor in Cantonese only, but an approximate translation into English is Jid Wong.

Striker Kwok Pak-kai, who was employed by Global and attended the meeting, said he had never heard of the contractor.

A search of the name on the Companies Registry produces 19 results, but 11 of the firms no longer exist. A company with the English name "Twin Rise Limited" is listed with a Chinese name that is pronounced as Jid Wong. The main shareholders of Twin Rise are listed as Leung Tai-tak and Cheung Kin-ngai, two people listed as the main shareholders of Comcheung.

However, it was not possible to verify if Twin Rise is the contractor taking over Global's contract. An HIT spokeswoman said she could not offer an official English or full Chinese name for "Jid Wong" but said this contractor did exist and had been working with other port operators.