Kwai Tsing dock workers strike

40 days on, dockers reflect on fight for dignity

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 May, 2013, 5:56am

Before March 28, they were just a bunch of contract dockers at the Kwai Tsing Container Terminals who were dissatisfied with their wages and conditions but had never made their voices heard.

That day they told themselves they had had enough and walked out on strike - not realising the industrial action would last for 40 days.

Some of the 430 strikers working for contractors under tycoon Li Ka-shing's port operator Hongkong International Terminals said they had thought about giving up but stuck it out because they were touched by the support of Hongkongers.

"I never thought that it would last so long," a docker from contractor Everbest Port Services said. "I thought it would end after a few days. I thought about giving up. But I did not, because of the support from the public."

I thought it would end after a few days. I thought about giving up. But I did not, because of the support from the public

The man, giving his name only as Lee, recalled the touching sight of an old man pulling a trolley with two boxes of Spam luncheon meat to their initial strike base at the terminals.

"He came three times," Lee said. "I know he is not a rich man. He lives on social welfare. Every time he came, he just told us that we had his full support and left."

On the first day of the walkout, it was wet and cold as the strikers slept at the terminals. "It was so cold and everywhere looked flooded because of the rain," Lee said. "But the next day the public started to send us tents and other resources. They have supported us throughout."

Another Everbest docker, who asked not to be named, said he had come under pressure from his family to go back to work and let the rest of the strikers fight for the wage increase of about 20 per cent that they were seeking.

"I thought about quitting. But that would have let my 'brothers' down," he said.

"All these years working at the terminal, I have slept with my brothers more than with my wife. We always have to sleep at the terminal between shifts. My brothers and my wife are equally important."

Yet another Everbest docker, Ng Siu-keung, said the action actually gave dock workers the chance to gripe about their grievances at work - an opportunity they hardly ever had during long and exhausting days on the job.

"We did not sleep much every day. We all chatted till late after midnight.

"It was quite a precious opportunity for us, all gathered here," Ng said.

"It was not just a fight for a wage increase, it was a fight for dignity and respect."

The dockers raised HK$8.54 million from the public in their strike fund. Now that the action is over, the fund has HK$2.3 million left, which will be distributed back to them.

The strikers received their 11th subsidy from the fund yesterday. Combined with this and their share of the remainder, each will get about HK$18,840.