Unions representing Hong Kong dockworkers will hold talks with two contractors and mediators from Hong Kong’s Labor Department on Wednesday
, according to a report from Radio Television Hong Kong
The broadcaster’s Website said port operator Hongkong International Terminal (HIT), a subsidiary of Hutchison Port Holdings, has indicated it will sit in on the talks between workers and the contractors that employ them.
The South China Morning Post
quoted an unnamed source as saying volumes at HIT’s five terminals had dropped 40-50 percent as a result of the strike
, now in its 12th day.
Radio Television Hong Kong
quoted the proprietor of one of the contractors in the dispute, Wing Fung Forwarders and Containers Service, as rejecting allegations the contractors had exploited their workers. He said the company was offering a no less than 5 percent increase in salary, but the strikers were asking for a pay rise of around 20 percent.
In a commentary published in the South China Morning Post
on Tuesday, Geoffrey Crothall, director of communications at the China Labour Bulletin, said
“workers and the trade union want to negotiate but the entrenched attitudes of management at HIT and the labyrinthine network of contractors and sub- contractors that it created has effectively nullified any effective channels of communication. Going on strike was the only option left for workers who had seen their pay stagnate over the past decade as the cost of living escalated rapidly."
Crothall said “The reason why Hong Kong's container ports have layer upon layer of contractors is simple, and it has nothing to do with efficiency or the smooth operation of the port. By parceling up the dock workers in a network of different contractors, management hopes to divide and rule, and snuff out any protest before it can escalate.”
He called on HIT and its managing director, Gerry Yim Lui-fai, “to accept reality and talk to the workers and their union representatives. Indeed, this is precisely what managers at Shenzhen's container ports did when a wave of strikes hit the ports of Yantian and Shekou six years ago.”
He said container volume in Shenzen, including that at Hutchison’s Yantian Internatonal Container Terminals, “not only survived the strikes, it continued to develop and expand and eventually overtook Hong Kong.” - Chris Dupin