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
Ada Lee and Jolie Ho
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.