Hong Kong International Terminals’ (HIT) managing director Gerry Yim denied on Wednesday that he was a board member of one of the contract firms that employed striking dock workers.
He made the comments at a press conference on Wednesday afternoon a short time after HIT released a statement denying that Yim or anyone at Hutchison Whampao, HIT’s parent company, or any senior executive at Hutchison Port Holdings Trust was a board member of any contractor.
HIT, which operates five of the nine terminals in Kwai Chung, is at the centre of a week-long labour dispute between dock workers who are demanding a pay raise and the labour contractors who hire the dockers on behalf of the port operator.
Yim’s comment and HIT’s statement came after Next Magazine on Wednesday published a report that it said linked Yim to a company called Sakoma, which was alleged to be an employer of the workers.
As well, Cable TV cited documents from the Companies Registry in a report on Wednesday saying that Yim served as a board member for up to 40 companies including one called Sakoma.
The report said that according to details on the staff cards of some dock workers participating in the strike, Sakoma was one of their employers.
The allegations carried in the Next Magazine report were untrue and misleading, HIT said in the statement.
The port operator said Sakoma and another company, Floata, were subsidiaries to Hutchison Port Holdings Trust.
“They hire contractors from the outside … to provide services to this group [Hutchison Port Holdings Trust] and other companies. But they themselves are not contractors,” it said.
HIT also denied the suggestion made in the Next report that Sakoma and a contractor called Everbest Port Services Limited were the same company.
“The magazine merely relied on one-sided information to draw its conclusion without verification. Its report is misleading and undermines the company’s reputation. This is very unfair to this company.”
Up to 100 dock workers have been on strike since last Thursday demanding a pay rise from their employers, which are contractors under HIT, a subsidiary of billionaire Li Ka-shing’s Hutchison Whampao. The dock workers have demanded a meeting with HIT management to help settle the dispute.
However, HIT and Yim have refused to get directly involved in the labour dispute. Yim said on Tuesday that the workers should settle the dispute with the contractors, who hired them, not with the port operator.
“We have no role in pay matters concerning the workers because they are not directly employed under us,” he said on Tuesday. “We’re an unrelated party.”
Yim’s comments angered the dock workers and unionists supporting them.
On Wednesday, Yim said at his press conference that a few years ago Sakoma was a member company under Hutchison Port Holdings, responsible for signing service contracts for HIT with external contractors, but it was not a contractor or employer of dock workers.
He said the reason that Sakoma’s name was printed on some workers’ staff cards was an “administrative error” that had not been corrected for years.
“This card is identification for the person to enter the port. Sakoma some years back was a Hutchison Port unit that signed service contracts with external contractors,” he said. “Because of an administrative error … the name of Sakoma remains on this card.”
Yim said Sakoma no longer worked with HIT, which now used Hutchison Logistics to sign external contractors. The company and HIT are both members of Hutchison Port Holdings Trust.
“We are very upset by the Next Magazine report. We will follow up the matter with Next Media and related people using legal means and seek compensation for damage made to the company,” he said.