All On the Same Ocean 同一个海上

Solidarity with Strikers on the Hong Kong Docks 声援香港码头工人罢工


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Interview with Hong Kong Dockworker

Interview with Stephen Chan, Hong Kong Dock Worker

by SG
Stephan Chan, Hong Kong Dockworker

My name is Stephen Chan. I live in the New Territories, Hong Kong. I have two children – a boy and a girl. I’ve been working at the docks as a checker for 18 years. In 1995 I got paid 1,456 HKD ($188 USD) for a 24-hour shift. The companies cut our pay during SARS and the Asian economic crisis. At one point we were making as little as 1,060 HKD ($137 USD) for a 24-hour shift. Now I get paid 1,315 HKD ($169 USD) for a 24 hour shift.

We work no matter what. We work when the wind is smashing us, the rain is pounding us, the sun is bearing down on us…we may even work during a typhoon! We are so close to the trucks so that all day we breathe pollution.

We work 24 hour shifts, sometimes these shifts are back to back. When at work we can’t leave, we take our breaks in the dock. Our break area has small cubicles that are about 1.5 to 2 feet wide and have a 5-6 foot chair in them for us to rest on. The break area fits about 100 people. If there’s no space, workers are forced to rest on the floor and in the staircases. The workers who are operating the cranes must take all their meals and rest up in the crane – they don’t come down. They also must go to the bathroom in that area as well. This all means that we do not get real rest while working these long shifts.

In the past we had more workers. It used to be that I worked in a team of 9. Now its cut down to 6. In the past we had 15-16 containers per hour, now we have 25. The company pushes us so much, this situation is really difficult.

There were some Australians who came by here and said that they think we are treated like dirt on the floor. That was their own words, not mine.

I want rest time and to have a little money to prepare for life. Our wives and children and families are behind us because they understand why we walked out. All we want is a contract that returns our wage to what it was in 1995. We aren’t even asking for an increase, just to return our wages to what they were in the past. We want to improve the work environment. I hope that we can have a more equal relationship between the company and the workers in the future.

To donate to the dock worker’s strike fund online, see here


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3000 join dock worker’s march to Government House

Striking dockers make surprise march to Government House

Saturday, 27 April, 2013, 12:00am
News›Hong Kong
LABOUR
Johnny Tam, Jolie Ho and Stuart Lau
Dockers and their supporters turn up in their thousands to protest chief executive’s inaction

The striking dockers last night made an unannounced move to mark their walkout’s first month by marching to Government House, although their target, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, had yet to return from his Beijing trip.
Chaos ensued and traffic lanes on Garden Road were blocked when the dockers tried to break police blockades on their route that started from the Cheung Kong Center in Central, where hundreds of strikers and their supporters had earlier gathered for their second public rally.
Strike organiser Stanley Ho Wai-hong, of the Union of Hong Kong Dockers, claimed 3,000 joined the march against Leung’s inaction in the past month. The police put the number at 600.
Police said the protesters informed them of the plan only in the afternoon, rather than a week in advance as required. Deputy Central district commander Chan Yee-lai said they would gather evidence to see whether there was any legal liability.
Meanwhile, the High Court granted an injunction banning the strikers from entering the Cheung Kong Center.
“We have no intention of entering the tower to protest, so the ruling won’t affect the dockers’ determination,” Ho said.
A war of words over the strike at the Kwai Tsing Container Terminals escalated yesterday, with the Li Ka-shing empire publicly slamming unionist lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan, a key leader in the walkout. Hutchison Whampoa hit out at the unionists’ “Cultural Revolution-like criticism”.
Hutchison – the parent company of port operator Hongkong International Terminals (HIT), whose contractors employ the 450 striking dockers – for the first time took out advertisements in most Chinese-language newspapers to publish a statement.

We have no intention of entering the tower to protest, so the ruling won’t affect the dockers’ determination
Strike organiser Stanley Ho Wai-hong

Titled “Behind the industrial action”, the statement said: “The Cultural Revolution-like criticism has led the industrial and business sectors to face unprecedented pressure, causing a domino effect”. It accused Lee and other unionists of “stirring hostility to the rich and encouraging verbal abuse to hurt and vilify Li Ka-shing”. Lee said: “The strikers are only fighting for a pay rise. There is room for negotiation.”
Also yesterday, strike-hit HIT contractor Global Stevedoring Service told the Labour Department it would bring forward its closure to Tuesday, from June 30.


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Striking Hong Kong workers block road, refuse to leave billionaire’s skyscraper

See a report of the recent action here!

Striking Hong Kong dockers block road, refuse to leave camp at billionaire’s skyscraper

The Associated Press

HONG KONG – Hong Kong dockworkers briefly blocked a road and refused on Thursday to stop camping out at a tower owned by the city’s richest man, as their bitter strike looked set to drag into a second month.

About 300 striking workers protested by walking slowly on the road in front of the Asian financial hub’s container ports. The protest lasted several hours and left trucks backed up for several kilometres.

The workers have been on strike since the end of March. They are demanding higher pay and better working conditions from the middleman companies supplying labour to port operator Hongkong International Terminals, controlled by billionaire Li Ka-shing.

The workers also ignored a demand to leave their camp in front of Li’s skyscraper headquarters by noon, under threat of legal action. They’ve been sleeping in tents outside the Cheung Kong Center in the city’s financial district for about a week as they press their demands.

The dockworkers have put up signs depicting Li as a devil and accusing his company of exploiting workers. Li, whose conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa controls Hongkong International Terminals, is worth $31 billion, according to Forbes, making him Asia’s richest person.

Hong Kong’s port is one of the world’s busiest and the strike has slowed shipments of toys, clothes and shoes moving from factories in mainland China to overseas markets. Japanese shipping company Mitsui O.S.K. Lines said Thursday a Jakarta-bound vessel was delayed due to the strike.

Legislator and union leader Lee Cheuk-yan said the strikers decided to block the road in response to “lies put forward” by Hongkong International Terminals about their working conditions.

“Our purpose is not to affect the truck drivers. We are just there to protest,” Lee said. “But of course there may be collateral damage.”

Lee said the protesters wanted to dispute newspaper ads taken out this week by the port operator that said the workers have enough time to rest, eat lunch and go to the bathroom. Operators of the giant gantry cranes moving containers on and off ships have complained that they have to eat and relieve themselves inside their crew cabins.

The workers want a 20 per cent pay hike to make up for pay cuts in previous years. The subcontractors are offering raises of just 5 to 7 per cent.

Hutchison operates 12 berths at four of Hong Kong’s nine container terminals and two others with a partner.

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Updates April 24th

Here are 2 articles that were sent to us as updates around the strike. It is the 28th day of the strike and workers and community, youth and students continue to surround Cheong Kong Center, and did a sit in.

Stanley Ho, an organizer from the Union of Docker Workers, a part of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Union states that it is willing to negotiate the 20% pay raise the workers are demanding.

When asked whether the strikers would stage a sit-in outside Li’s Deep Water Bay house, Ho said: “This is something we can consider. It would be better if we can do it inside his house.”

supporters enter Cheong Kong Center

supporters enter Cheong Kong Center

supporters protest at Cheung Kong Center 3

Docker’s supporters take protest to Li’s corporate offices

More than 20 supporters of striking dock workers went undercover to evade security at the Cheung Kong Center and take the dockers’ grievances inside the corporate headquarters of billionaire property and telecoms tycoon Li Ka-shing on Wednesday.

The protesters – including students and activists – evaded security guards on the ground floor by wearing business suits and went straight to the Cheung Kong offices on the seventh floor of the building in Central.

Once inside they unfurled banners and shouted slogans urging Li, the chairman of Hutchison Whampoa, the parent company of port operator Hongkong International Terminals (HIT) where the dockers work, to help improve the workers’ pay and conditions.

During their sit-in demonstration, the protesters denounced Li as “a businessman with no conscience” and called on him to intervene in the three-week labour dispute between the dockers at HIT’s Kwai Tsing container terminals and the contractors hired by HIT who employ them there.

supporters protest at Cheung Kong Center 2The sit-in lasted for about 20 minutes and the protesters left the premises after handing a petition to a Cheung Kong staff member.

The strike by about 450 dock workers entered its 27 day on Wednesday.

The dockers are seeking a 17 per cent pay rise and better working conditions.

Three previous meeting between the workers and HIT’s contractors have failed to resolve the dispute.

About 200 of the striking workers are camped outside Cheung Kong Center.

On Wednesday afternoon, the striking workers encircled the office building and blocked its entrance.

At one point, they attempted to break through a security line to get into the building, but were stopped by security guards and police officers.

Stanley Ho Wai-hang, a strike organiser from the Confederation of the Trade Unions, said the dock workers would escalate their strike actions further if HIT and Hutchison Whampao did not respond to their demands.

Striking dockers to adjust their ’20pc pay rise’ bottom line 

Wednesday, 24 April, 2013,

The union representing the 450 striking dockers says it will come up with a new bottom line in the next couple of days in a bid for a “breakthrough” in the workers’ weeks-long walkout.

Speaking after a three-hour meeting with half of the striking dockers on the 27th day of the industrial action yesterday, Union of Hong Kong Dockers spokesman Stanley Ho Wai-hong said the union had yet to come to a decision on the new bottom line, but it would definitely be a “two-digit number”.

“It could be 11 per cent or 19 per cent,” Ho said. But the contractors had to offer much better benefits, he added.

“The dockers want to show a sign of sincerity and hope there will be a breakthrough. They want the public to know they want the strike to end, too.”

The strikers had been demanding HK$100 more for each shift they worked, meaning a rise of about 20 per cent.

Ho said they also had plans for further action that would take the form of sit-ins and protests in places other than their current strike base at the Cheung Kong Center in Central.

The Center is the office of tycoon Li Ka-shing, whose Hutchison Whampoa is parent company of the strike-hit port operator Hongkong International Terminals (HIT).

Asked whether the strikers would stage a sit-in outside Li’s Deep Water Bay house, Ho said: “This is something we can consider. It would be better if we can do it inside his house.”

Separately, HIT placed its third advertisement in several newspapers yesterday, saying it had to deliver “the truth behind distorted remarks” made by the strike organiser earlier.

HIT said the advertisement placed by the strike organiser on Monday was “misleading” and was in need of clarification.

It criticised the union’s advertisement for misleading the public by saying that Hutchison Port Holdings – which HIT is under – made HK$780 million in profits last year.

HIT clarified that the amount of profit was from all the 52 ports in 26 countries under Hutchison Port. HIT’s profits were less than a tenth of that amount, it said.


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LabourStart campaign: More than 8000 protest to port bosses

LabourStart  www.labourstart.org has been running an online campaign at the request of the Hong Kong Dockworkers Union and the International Transport Workers Federation, getting people to send off protest emails to the port bosses. Currently they’ve generated over 8,200 messages.

Please join in this form of e-campaigning, and spread the link: http://www.labourstartcampaigns.net/show_campaign.cgi?c=1778

LabourStart is a superb source of daily media postings from all over the globe. Check it.


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Bangladeshi garment factory collapse kills at least 87 workers

Yet another workplace tragedy in Bangladesh’s garment industry. Not too long ago, 112 workers die in a fire in the Tazreen factory. The deject working conditions that garment workers in Bangladesh experience is being fueled by companies such as Walmart and Disney. These conditions are being justified by the industry proponents as lifting people out of poverty. They even dare to talk about how they are doing Bangladeshi women a favor here:

“Industry proponents say the garment industry has been an essential engine for the Bangladeshi economy, lifting millions of people, particularly women, out of abject poverty, even with such low wages. Today, garments represent roughly 80 percent of Bangladesh’s manufacturing exports and provide a critical source of foreign exchange that the government needs to help offset the high costs of imported oil.”

In Dec 2012, in the immediate aftermath of the Tazreen fire that killed 112, organizers in Newark and Charlestone organized a symbolic port blockade here and here. Below is the video from Bangladeshi workers who survived, entitled “So We May All Survive”