Dockworkers in Hong Kong have decided to end a 40-day strike after securing a promise of a 9.8 percent wage increase and improved working conditions.
The Union of Hong Kong Dockers (UHKD) said it had received on Monday a written confirmation jointly signed by the four contractors at Hongkong International Terminal - Everbest, Comcheung, Lem Wing and Pui Kee - via the Hong Kong Labor Department that confirms the 9.8 percent increase in the basic wage for all their employees at different works in Kwai Chung Container Terminals, effective for one year from May 1.
The union said at a meeting “members considered the written assurance by the four contractors with the Labor Department a step forward compared to the verbal, unilateral announcement these companies made on May 3.”
At one time workers were reportedly asking for a 20 percent increase in wages.
“Although the strike has not secured a collective bargaining agreement with the employers, the 40-day industrial action has broken the ‘tradition’ of unilateralism and succeeded in forcing the contractors to seal a written confirmation about the pay and working conditions,” the unions said.
The South China Morning Post
reported about 450 workers began the strike on March 28.
The UHKD said it believes the wage offer by the contractors “is the first step towards building a mechanism of communication and negotiation between the employers and the union representing a large section of the contractual workers in the Hong Kong terminals.”
The union said employers also committed to improve the occupational safety and health protection with the terminal companies, as well as providing the crane operators the right to stop the machine to take lunch, and leave their workplace for the restroom as necessary.
“Members of UHKD consider that these concrete commitments are important basis for the union to further engage the contractors and HIT in good faith in the future,” the union said.
“While calling an end to the strike, the union is now working to assist the re-employment of its members, particularly the hundred crane operators employed by Global Stevedoring which announced its closure on April 18. The union is pressing the Labor Department to negotiate with all the contractors for the soonest possible re-employment of these members.”
UHKD also said it would “see to the end that the contractors abide by their promise of non-retaliation; and that none of its members will be penalized in the future for having taken part in the strike. The union will follow up to demand the contractors and HIT for a mechanism to schedule the rest and lunch breaks, enforce the safety and health provisions, review the salary regularly and eventually establish a collective bargaining mechanism that includes the contractual workers in the terminals.”
The union added that “passionate support and generous donations of the Hong Kong community, the international trade unions and organizations have helped us to sustain the strike for forty days” and called on the government to put legislation in place on collective bargaining that it says was scrapped by the government in 1997.
“The working people in Hong Kong must have an internationally recognized mechanism on collective bargaining to ensure the right to fair negotiation of their working conditions and protection of the unions they belong to,” it said.
said the strike delayed cargo being moved on and off ships at the terminal, and added the Hong Kong Association of Freight Forwarding and Logistics said there was a backlog of 80,000 to 90,000 containers at the port during the strike.
The newspaper said the parent company of HIT, Hutchison Port Holdings, said the terminal had been operating at 80-90 percent capacity, but that about 100 ships had skipped the port because of delays, with some choosing terminals in Shenzhen. Other shippers moved cargo moving on vessels berthed at non-Hutchison terminals in Hong Kong. - Chris Dupin