Contractors plan to offer pay rises of up to 12 per cent to dock workers at the Kwai Tsing Container Terminals - close to the 14 per cent demanded by the dockers - a union leader says.
But the union, which won a 9.8 per cent pay increase after a 40-day strike a year ago, suspected something "fishy" as it appeared not all workers would qualify for the extra cash.
"The union will discuss the offer with the dockers to see if they accept this raise. If they don't, we can't rule out the possibility of action," Union of Hong Kong Dockers general secretary Stanley Ho Wai-hong said yesterday.
Port operator Hongkong International Terminals (HIT) cautioned that speculation about the details was "unfounded". It has said the increase would be no lower than inflation, which rose by 4.3 per cent last year.
According to Ho, contractors recently told dock workers that they intended to offer a basic increase of 9.8 per cent for the 3,000 workers. Taking into account other benefits, that would mean a total raise of about 12 per cent.
The package would include an unspecified extra payment for those workers who moor vessels using ropes, he said. "But not every docker performs this duty," he said. "That means that many dockers will not benefit."
There were also questions over safety bonuses for crane operators who maintain a clear safety record for a specified period of time, Ho said.
A HIT spokesman said the company would discuss the size of any increase with its contractors soon and listen to the views of workers.
"The rate of increase will at least match the rate of inflation," he said, adding that "any speculation about specific levels of wage increase for HIT's external contractor workers is completely unfounded".
On March 28 last year, hundreds of dockers launched a 40-day strike at HIT's terminals to push for a 20 per cent raise. They eventually settled for 9.8 per cent.
Figures from the Port Development Council show that April throughput last year fell 10.7 per cent from the previous year, reflecting the blow to HIT's business from one of the longest strikes in Hong Kong history.
Separately, the Minimum Wage Commission yesterday launched a six-week consultation to review the statutory minimum wage level, which currently stands at HK$30 a hour.