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  • Dec 28, 2014
  • Updated: 8:15am

Kwai Tsing dock workers strike

On March 28, 2013, dock workers at Kwai Tsing took industrial action seeking a 17 per cent pay rise. The port is operated by Hongkong International Terminals (HIT).

NewsHong Kong

Hong Kong dockers reject 9.8pc pay rise offer as Dutch arrive to show support

Union says its members unanimously agreed to turn down a 9.8 per cent pay rise offer as Dutch unionists arrive in city to show their support

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 05 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 05 May, 2013, 6:58pm

Striking dockers yesterday rejected a 9.8 per cent pay rise offer from their employers, and said they would only settle the dispute through negotiations over pay and conditions.

Leaders of the strike at the Kwai Tsing container terminals, now the longest in Hong Kong industrial relations history, said the offer - made on Friday - fell short of the double-digit pay rise they wanted and did not cover issues involving working conditions which are also in dispute.

The latest twist in the industrial action, which enters its 39th day today, came as members of a Dutch trade union, which represents workers in a Rotterdam port owned by Hutchison Port Holdings (HPH) flew to Hong Kong to show their support.

HPH, through Hongkong International Terminals (HIT), operates the five terminals at Kwai Tsing. The striking dockers work for HIT contractors.

The Dutch workers said they were trying to build support for the strikers at ports across Europe.

The contractors - Everbest Port Services, Pui Kee Stevedore Company, Lem Wing Transportation and Comcheung Human Resources - presented their take-it-or-leave-it pay-rise proposal in a statement late on Friday, and added that they would not engage in further talks.

After a three-hour meeting yesterday, the Union of Hong Kong Dockers said its members unanimously agreed to continue their strike. It said many issues, such as meal and toilet breaks, were not settled in previous negotiations, and that it wanted a sixth round of talks.

Moreover, it said the contractors could not quickly replace workers with new ones. Unionist Stanley Ho Wai-hong insisted the dockers receive a "double digit" pay rise. "We will not accept any proposal [before a new round of talks]. It has been the company's tactics to settle issues under the table. We will not accept that," he said.

Niek Stam of the Dutch union said: "It is disgraceful that the big boss of Hutchison here in Hong Kong doesn't deliver what it should deliver as an employer." He also said the union would try to campaign with unions in other major ports in Europe that are also owned by Hutchison to put more pressure on the firm.

The Dutch dockers are directly employed by HPH, and earn the equivalent of HK$270,000 to HK$400,000 a year, 50 to 67 per cent more than their Hong Kong counterparts. They work 178 hours a month, compared to the 330 hours Hong Kong dockers put in, and have collective bargaining power.

Everbest and another contractor, Global Stevedoring Service, earlier offered a 7 per cent pay increase. Dick Wong Chi-tak, representative of Everbest, admitted yesterday that the 9.8 per cent offer was "no different" to the previous offer given it included benefits not currently part of base salaries.

He said the company could not make further concessions.


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The money goes to the few elites who have monopoly over certain businesses in Hong Kong over the years. It is time for us Hong Kongers to evaluate the value of various jobs that involved intensive labour; we need to rewrite finance.
"The Dutch dockers are directly employed by HPH, and earn the equivalent of HK$270,000 to HK$400,000 a year, 50 to 67 per cent more than their Hong Kong counterparts. They work 178 hours a month, compared to the 330 hours Hong Kong dockers put in, and have collective bargaining power." So the hourly rate of Hk dockers are roughly 20% to 25% of their counterpart. Similar comparing to Australia. I hope you see why we have such a wide rich poor gap.
More and more people sympathise with the dockers, more people start to realise that HK has only rudimentary labour protection and more support for the strikers comes from unions around the world.
If the government doesn't start quickly to serve the people of HK (civil service it is called) and pro actively mediates between the three groups (dockers, contractors and HIT), the strike may turn into major riots involving many more working groups fighting for better (more civil) working conditions. This strike could enter HK's history books as the beginning of major changes in HK's working conditions and labour protection.
Different countries have different standards of living, taxes and compensation structures.. It's definitely not an apple to apple comparison... Perhaps they should compare with workers in China or other parts of Asia instead...
Very True indeed! However, given the high cost of living conditions in Hong Kong, the long working hours, the pay the HK dock workers are getting is just ridiculously LOW!
One should compare the fees charged by HPH in different ports around the world. Any bets that it probably makes a lot more profit in Hong Kong than in Rotterdam?
HIT and HPH's claim that the dispute is between the dockers and their direct employers, sub-contractors of HPH, is a dishonest fiction. It is deeply shocking that a crane operator has to use a bucket in his cab to relieve himself during his shift because he is not allowed a break. Why have we heard nothing from the Labour Department about the abusive and illegal practices by the employers?
Maybe all these dock workers should move to Rotterdam if the pay and work conditions are so much better there...
Hopefully, with greater attention and labor solidarity (industrial action at HPH's ports worldwide?), HPH could be motivated to bargain on equal terms in Hong Kong.
For Hong Kong to further develop economically, it is evident that labor protection must catch up with economic development. Hong Kong is literally in the Tool Age when it comes to protection of workers. For instance, compared to the G8 countries, workers still lack:
-standard 8 hour work day and 40 hour work week
-progressive overtime system (overtime pay starts at 1.5 times normal pay)
-mandatory breaks for personal needs such as food and toilet
-statutory recognition of collective bargaining
-prohibition of the hiring of new or replacement workers during labor action
-minimum consecutive daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly rest time
Perhaps cheap exploitation of labor could have been an acceptable necessity for economic development thirty or forty years ago, but it cannot possibly have a place in a modern, developed society. It strains credulity that a dockworker sweatshop is permitted to operate in our beautiful city. Obviously, the problem here is gross negligence on the part of the government. Capitalism is be a wondrous economic model, but it inherently leads to undesirable outcomes, such as gross inequity. The government has the responsibility to legislate laws to maintain a just and equitable playing field for economic players, and it must do so expeditiously.
In order to compare the pay in HK with the pay in other countries you the dockers need to compare how much money they take home on a net basis after tax. Furthermore, how much is deducted for social contributions (which of course are for the benefit of the worker ultimately).
"Why have we heard nothing from the Labour Department about the abusive and illegal practices by the employers?"......Because the Labour Department is too afraid to confront the richest man in Asia, who also happens to own and run HK in a sense. There is no labour protection laws here in HK, or that it is seldom enforced. We inherited this from the past colonial government which is to exploit the cheap labour of us Chinese, all in the name of "free trade and competitiveness".



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