For the first time since the beginning of the 26-day strike, Li Ka-shing’s manager Fok Kin-ning publicly attacked the strikers and their supporters, including unionist lawmaker Lee Cheuk Yan. Comparing the workers’ strike props to the Cultural Revolution, he said, ”This [strike] has been using the style of the Cultural Revolution [where people are vilified on banners and posters].” In addition, he added that he did not believe the dockers’ working conditions were that bad and that they were “willing to work long hours”. Furthermore, the company has issued a public media campaign aimed at vilifying the workers, presenting them as greedy and unsatisfied, whose demands were “unachievable.” Read more here
Below is the response from the Hong Kong Dockworkers Union to these attacks. They also respond briefly to the announcement by Global Stevedoring to close its operations in Hong Kong, causing the lay offs of some striking workers. It also includes their call to action to surround the Cheong Kong building, Li Ka Shing’s office building on Friday April 26th.
Thank you to HKCTU for the translation. PDF version: response
Li Ka-shing, do you know how bad the conditions of your workers are??
In a staggering publicity stunt last week that included several newspaper ads and public remarks by Hutchison Whampoa’s managing director Canning Fok Kin-ning, Hong Kong International Terminals (HIT) and its subcontractors sought to smear the striking workers and their union. Thus today, we must present the truth and correct their distortions; we must reveal to society the exploitation suffered by the workers as these ruthless capitalists—who clearly have no regard for the basic rights of the labor class—reap their excessive profits.
A raise for the family
Yes, we demand wage increases—but only to compensate for 18 years of exploitation and continuous inflation. The striking workers are mostly divided into crane drivers and stevedores. In 1995, loaders made HK$1,456 for every 24 hours of work; fast-forward to 2013, they now only make HK$1,315 for the same amount of work. (Table below) Given a cumulative inflation rate of 28.5% during the 18 year in between, the workers’ real income fell 29.7%; our demand for a 20% raise can’t even match inflation. As they struggle to survive and support their families, these workers have chosen to fight for the justice and dignity they deserve. In the subcontractors’ statement, they only dared say the workers’ current salary is higher than that in 1997, intentionally evading the 1995 numbers in a numerical ruse to fool the public.
|Year||Wage (24 hours’ work)||Hourly wage||Year||Wage (24 hours’ work)||Hourly wage|
|2003||$1,090||$45.41||2011 to now||$1,315||$54.79|
HIT claims that the dock workers’ income is higher than the median income in Hong Kong (HK$12,000), but they have neglected to mention that the city’s median working hours is 45 per week and the mean hourly rate is around HK$61.50, which is at least 9.75% higher than that of the dock workers. HIT’s true intentions are for all to judge.
As for the crane drivers, the union’s only hope is that workers with the same job can earn the same wage. Why is it that despite having identical jobs, workers hired directly by the company make twice as much as those hired by subcontractors (Table below) and, unlike the latter, are given time to eat, go to the bathroom and rest? Why have all subcontracted workers been stripped of these basic rights?
|Crane operators hired by subcontractors||Crane operators hired by HIT||Comparison|
|Average hourly rate||$60-71||$92-180*||50-150% more|
|Monthly working hours||312 hours||173 hours|
*Including shift premium pay and bonus
Please treat us like human beings!
HIT and the subcontractors have also said that the dock workers take up 24-hour shifts voluntarily—they are either oblivious to the plight of their own frontline workers, or intentionally misrepresenting reality. The truth is, when the subcontractors demand that these loaders work for 36, 48, 72—or even more—hours straight, the workers do not dare refuse in fear of punishment. Even under the typhoon signal no. 8, they must risk their lives climbing to the tip of cargoes nine-story high and fastening them tightly in the absence of any safety measures. In contrast, working under the scorching sun or amid raging rains and thunderstorms is just another day for these workers.
Required to stay in the small operator cabin- for 12 consecutive hours, the subcontracted workers often have to eat and urinate inside the crane—a widely known fact within the industry and one of which Fok is clearly ignorant. In addition, having to lean forward for extended periods of time has led to occupational injuries in the necks and backs of numerous workers, many of whom have had to undergo treatment and surgeries. Backed by true examples, these appalling stories cannot be denied.
The shutdown – just a dodging of responsibility!
The striking workers were prepared for the shutting of Global Stevedoring Service; unlike more than a decade of one-year contract renewals, this year, the company only renewed the workers’ contract for half a year, which suggests that it had been planning to close down for a while. We suspect that the firm took advantage of the strike’s timing to blame its shutdown on the workers and exit negotiations, leaving their crane drivers jobless.
The union has always emphasized HIT’s inexorable responsibility. We hope to directly negotiate with HIT and resolve this labor dispute.
Where’s the trickle-down? A microcosm of Hong Kong society
Hutchison Whampoa’s profits have continued to rise in recent years. In 1996, the before-tax profits of the corporation’s port-related operations totaled HK$4.6 billion; in 2012, the number reached HK$7.8 billion, surging as much as 70%.
Now let’s turn to Hutchison’s executives. Canning Fok, “the king of all workers”—who, having raised his own salary by almost 20% more than once, currently makes more than HK$100 million a year—is now apparently concerned that the raise demanded by the workers will bring down the economy. Such baseless threats show that Hutchison has entirely disregarded the contributions these workers have made to the local economy. A report by Citibank estimates that Hutchison has lost $100 million from the strike. Why would Hutchison rather suffer losses than face the workers’ reasonable demands? Again, its intentions are clear for all to judge.
Run no more, HIT, and negotiate in good faith!!
The strike has lasted 26 days. Still, the workers battle on. The union and workers all know that this is not just the struggle of several hundred or several thousand dock workers—but the struggle for the dignity of every one of Hong Kong’s workers and citizens. The dock workers have stepped forward to fight for justice and fairer distribution from a corporation that has monopolized the Hong Kong economy for more than a decade, and it is the support of our fellow citizens that keeps us going. Action speaks louder than words—please join us at:
Action to surround Cheung Kong Centre
Date: 26 April 2013 (Friday)
Venue: Main entrance of Cheung Kong Centre
The Strike Fund: Hang Seng 295-8-067833
Lastly, we implore the world’s richest Chinese, Mr. Li Ka-shing, to show sincerity, realize social corporate responsibility, and bear responsibility for this labor dispute.
Union of Hong Kong Dockers
(Tel) 27708668 (website) http://www.hkctu.org.hk/cms/index.jsp