More than 100 dock workers protested and went on strike at the Kwai Tsing Container Terminals yesterday, seeking a 17 per cent pay rise.
They said their wages had been raised only once in the past 15 years, and inflation was making it hard for them to make ends meet. The workers and their supporters stormed into terminal six in the morning, trying to block trucks from entering. Five security guards, aged from 32 to 54, were injured during clashes. Police stood by at the scene.
Stanley Ho Wai-hong, of the Union of Hong Kong Dockers, said their daily wages were cut from HK$1,480 in 1997 to HK$1,115 around 2003, then raised to HK$1,315 in 2011. The workers, who are hired by contractors, want the rate increased to HK$1,600.
They hoped to talk directly with port operator Hongkong International Terminals, but a company representative stressed it was a "third party".
Ho said they would not go away unless management answered their demands. They could accept a smaller wage increase if the company "showed some sincerity", he said. "We did everything we could before taking this step. The workers are now very angry."
Contractor and union representatives met in the afternoon, but no consensus was reached.
Hongkong International Terminals said it had taken emergency measures and operations had not been affected.
Managing director Gerry Yim Lui-fai called the protest "irresponsible", emphasising the workers were contract employees. The company had asked contractors to raise the workers' salaries, and dismissed claims their wages were lower in 1997. He said contractors had raised wages by 5 per cent this year. Workers should have been receiving HK$17,000 a month in 1997 and should be making HK$21,000 now.
The Labour Department said it had sent officials to the terminal, and hoped the issue could be solved rationally. Police are looking for three men in connection with the alleged assault of the security guards, but no arrests have been made.