Contractors to meet striking dockers over pay demands
A contractor at the centre of a labour dispute on Tuesday ruled out a 20 per cent pay rise for striking dock workers in Kwai Chung, saying an increase of this amount was unaffordable.
It was the first time a contractor involved in the dispute has spoken publicly about the strike, which entered its 13th day on Tuesday.
This also came ahead of a scheduled meeting between with the workers, contractors and port operator Hongkong International Terminals (HIT) on Wednesday.
Wong Chi-tak, a spokesman for Everbest Port Services, said the contractor had sympathy with workers who were trying to cope with rising inflation, but it would be difficult for the company to give the 20 per cent rise they were demanding.
He also rejected the accusation that the contractor was exploiting the workers, saying the salary of workers hired by his company had actually increased by a yearly average of 11 per cent since 1997.
“The increase in 2011 was nearly 20 per cent,” he said. “[And] if we were exploiting them, our company wouldn’t have been in operation for almost 20 years.”
Wong pledged to offer a pay rise of no less than 5 per cent. But he declined to reveal how much of an increase Everbest had received in their latest contract from HIT, which hires the contractors to provide the labour. HIT is a subsidiary of property tycoon Li Ka-shing’s Hutchison Whampoa.
Everbest is one of four contractors involved in the dispute, in which some 450 workers have been on strike in Kwai Chung Container Terminals since March 28.
Everbest and another contractor will meet the striking workers on Wednesday. The meeting is a result of mediation efforts by the Labour Department.
Representatives of HIT, which has been accused by workers of distancing itself from the dispute, will also sit in on the meeting for the first time, something strikers have been asking for for some time.
One striking dock worker said the workers could compromise on the level of a pay rise if their employers showed sincerity at Wednesday’s meeting.