Zoltan Grossman, a geography professor at The Evergreen State College outside of Olympia, Washington, has been digging into the facts surrounding the collapse of the I-5 bridge across the Skagit River north of Seattle. The picture he is putting together of this incident is even more shocking than we initially believed. Mullen Trucking, the Calgary based operator of the truck that hit the span is involved in hauling large and heavy drilling from the Port of Vancouver, WA, to the Alberta Tar Sands field. The equipment is placed in a large box for the trip north and east from Vancouver, WA. After unloading the trucks return to Vancouver with the empty housing boxes to be loaded again. The truck that hit the bridge was carrying one of those large housing boxes back to Vancouver for another load of drilling equipment.
Thanks to Zoltan there is more below the flying orange squig.
Initially, these trucks were routed East across Oregon, Northern Idaho and into Montana before heading north into Alberta. Because of organized protests in Missoula, Mullen started diverting some of their drilling cargo north on I-5 through Seattle to take some of the pressure off Montana, however, they continue to use the Montana route as well.
Mullen Trucking L. P. is no two-bit player in the business of moving drilling rigs. It has a market capitalization of $2.5 billion according to Anil Tahiliani, portfolio manager with McLean and Partners Wealth Management in Calgary. Mullen will be in Booth 2001 at the Oil Sands Trade Show and Conference, Sept. 10-11, 2013 in Fort McMurray, Alberta. They operate the largest specialized fleet in Western Canada with 140 trucks and 450 trailers designed to haul drilling equipment.
Professor Grossman provides the following links to sources for his analysis:
“There are some big players in the logistics industry in Alberta’s oil sands. For example, Mullen Trucking L.P. has a $2.5 billion market cap. Terrible road conditions mean trucking equipment around is hugely important…rig-moving equipment is ‘the latest thing.'” http://www.oregonlive.com/…
“Opponents force Imperial Oil to send megaloads to Canada’s oil sands on interstates, avoiding scenic highways” (with map) http://www.oregonlive.com/…
It would appear that the environmental damage of the Tar Sands/Keystone Pipeline Project is beyond our is beyond our worst fears and will only get worse.
The tentacles of that monstrosity reach across our country and Canada.
Interesting Side Note:
Professor Grossmans diligent discovery is the Second Grand Slam for Evergreen State College this Spring. Thomas Herndon, the grad student at the University of Massachusetts who exposed Reinhart and Rogoff’s treatise on National Debt and Economic Growth as a fraud is an Evergreen graduate.
Unionists cheer dockers on their first day back at the port. Photo: Edward Wong
Who won the port strike? As ever, this kind of question has no simple answer but, such as they are, the answers are more interesting than might be imagined.
Let’s start with the big question of whether the dockers won or lost. Clearly, they did not achieve the pay rise they were seeking – the 9.8 per cent accepted being around half their original demand – but management was forced to double its initial offer and to concede improved conditions of work that it initially refused even to discuss.
In purely monetary terms, it will be hard for the strikers to claw back the lost pay they sacrificed during the dispute; moreover some are now jobless. Yet they emerge from the strike with a strong sense of pride and solidarity, plus the comforting assurance of widespread public support for their cause.
What the strike crystallised was a significant change in the way many people regard Hong Kong’s leading businessmen, once hailed as rags-to-riches heroes but now seen in a very different light. The change in mood may well produce some interesting results.
Li Ka-shing, the man in the eye of the anti-big-business storm, emerges from this strike in bad shape. True, he kept his port company more or less at arm’s length. Yet, by actions such as taking out full-page newspaper advertisements denouncing the strike and its leaders, the company reinforced the impression that Li was at the centre of the strike, and not in a positive way. I have not heard anyone saying anything good about his actions; at best, they have been described as “understandable”.
On the other hand, the pro-democracy Confederation of Trade Unions, under the leadership of Lee Cheuk-yan, has clearly enhanced its status as the most impressive fighter for workers’ rights. The bigger pro-Beijing unions were largely left on the sidelines and suffered from the suspicion that they could no longer be relied upon to support the workers. This is damaging because one of the central planks of the pro-Beijing camp’s credibility is that it has a strong working-class base.
As for the government, well what can we say? Officials kind of stood aside at the outset, then kind of got involved and then kind of claimed to have settled the dispute. In other words, it was kind of muddled and ineffective. Smart governments either keep well away from private industrial disputes or plunge in with some determination. This government did neither. What a surprise.
There are wider questions to be asked about the consequences of this strike for collective bargaining. It is well known that those engaged in industrial disputes enjoy no more than minimal protection under Hong Kong’s laws. And we shall see, for example, whether there is longer-term retaliation against the strikers, who lack legal protection against such action. Yet the strike clearly showed that even employers who, as in this case, refuse to recognise the union leading the strike could be forced to sit down and negotiate with them.
One institution emerges from this strike with its reputation very much intact.
The judiciary resisted the legal bullying of Li’s lawyers trying to remove strikers from outside his headquarters, by ensuring that the rights of assembly were upheld, while also ruling on the removal of obstructions arising from these rights that were causing problems of public access.
The courts did their job in exemplary fashion and sent a reassuring message that they were not to be swayed by those with the biggest wads of cash.
Overall, the strike shows the effectiveness of industrial action and a change in public attitudes towards it. Who would have thought that as Hong Kong enters the 21st century, the place often portrayed as an epitome of capitalist values would be moving in this direction? This story is far from over.
Stephen Vines is a Hong Kong-based journalist and entrepreneur
This article first appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition on May 11, 2013 as Changed social landscape emerges from dock strike
Members of UHKD decided in the meeting held this evening to call an end to the 40-day strike in the HIT terminals.
On 6 May, UHKD received a written confirmation jointly signed by the four contractors of HIT, Everbest, Comcheung, Lem Wing and Pui Kee via the Labour Department. The four companies confirmed the new salary plan of 9.8% increase in the basic wage for all their employees at different works in the Kwai Chung Contrainer Terminals, effective for one year from 1 May 2013. In the workers’ meeting called by UHKD in the evening, members considered the written assurance by the four contractors with the Labour Department a step forward compared to the verbal, unilateral announcement these companies made on 3 May. 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. UHKD believes that this 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 four contractors’ written confirmation also gives details committing the employers 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 freely”, and “leave their workplace for toilet”. Members of UHKD decide that these concrete commitments are important basis for the union to continue the engagement with the contractors and HIT in good faith in the future.
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 18 April. The union is pressing the Labour Department to negotiate with all the contractors for the soonest possible re-employment of these members.
UHKD will 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 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. On behalf of our members, UHKD is thankful to all of you who have been giving us unwavering support. Together with you, we have demonstrated again the importance of workers’ unity in fighting not only for reasonable pay, but also our dignity and our future.
It is the time for Hong Kong SAR government to re-table the legislation on collective bargaining, scrapped by the government in 1997, in obligations under the ILO Convention No98. 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.
HONG KONG — Port workers at billionaire Li Ka- shing’s Hongkong International Terminals Ltd. ended the longest strike at Hong Kong’s container terminal as they accepted a 9.8 percent wage increase, resolving a dispute that damaged the city’s reputation as a trade hub.
The union will discuss arrangements for workers to return to the port, Chan Chiu-wai, organizer at Union of Hong Kong Dockers, said by telephone Monday. Workers had earlier demanded a 23 percent gain, while employers offered a 7 percent increase.
The agreement ends the biggest labor action against Asia’s richest man, in which about 450 dock workers, crane operators and stevedores, walked out on March 28 demanding higher wages and better working conditions. The 40-day strike at the world’s third-largest container port spurred shipping lines to divert vessels to nearby Chinese ports, highlighting the increasing competition Hong Kong faces as costs escalate.
“The weak bargaining power and poor work conditions revealed by the strike could deter young people from working in the industry,” said Geoffrey Cheng, an analyst at Bank of Communications Co. “It is time for the government to think about its role and what it can really do for Hong Kong, which is already under threat amid rising competition.”
The workers, hired by contractors, will get an increase in wages from HK$55 per hour. The docks were operating at about 90 percent of capacity in the last week of April after new employees were hired and some strikers returned to work.
Hongkong International Terminals is operated by Hutchison Port Holdings Trust, whose largest shareholder is Li’s Hutchison Whampoa Ltd. Hutchison Port, along with partner Cosco Pacific Ltd., dominates half of the capacity at Hong Kong’s port. Hutchison Whampoa has interests in 52 ports globally from Panama to the Netherlands.
Terminals controlled by Hutchison Port also have a 46 percent market share in Shenzhen, where shipping lines including Evergreen Marine Corp Taiwan Ltd. diverted vessels because of the strike in Hong Kong.
“It’s surprising that the strike lasted for such a long time, which damaged Li’s reputation,” said Lawrence Li, an analyst at UOB-Kay Hian Holdings Ltd. Still, the financial impact on the port operator is “insignificant,” he said.
The dockworkers were demanding higher wages as rising living costs and record home prices spur discontent in the former British colony. Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd., the city’s main carrier, in December agreed on a deal with the flight attendants union, averting labor disruptions threatened after disagreements on wage increases and working conditions.
As the strike lengthened, port workers had surrounded Li’s office building, Cheung Kong Center, in the Central business district. Hutchison Whampoa won a court injunction to have the workers, who earlier led marches with pictures of Li as a vampire, barred from the building. The workers could demonstrate outside Cheung Kong Center.
The bargaining power of workers, who say their wages are down from 1995, have been weakened in the past decade as Hong Kong loses market share to Chinese ports.
Boxes handled by Hong Kong port fell 5 percent to 23.1 million last year from 2011, according to Hong Kong Port Development Council. Total volumes at Shenzhen, China, rose 1.6 percent to 22.9 million containers, according to Shenzhen Ports Association. Shanghai and Singapore are the world’s two biggest container ports.
Some workers were told last month they will lose their jobs as Global Stevedoring Service Co., one of the contractors which employs them, decided to wind up operations because it wasn’t able to meet the salary demands.
The port added temporary workers to help resume operation, and also offered more money to 300 crane operators who started a work-to-rule action on April 4 in support of the strike.
The daily financial loss caused by the strike was “significantly” cut in the last two weeks in April, Hongkong International said April 23, without elaboration. The daily loss narrowed to HK$2.4 million on April 5 from HK$5 million earlier, it said.
Li is boosting his dominance at Hong Kong port as Hutchison Port in March bought a box terminal from DP World Ltd. and a partner. The deal would happen because there is no anti-trust law in Hong Kong, according to Ronny Tong, a lawmaker and a barrister specializing in commercial, shipping and company laws.
After the deal, Hutchison Port’s share in the city’s port will be boosted to 64 percent of capacity, up from 55 percent, according to UOB-Kay Hian Holdings data. The city has a total of nine terminals.
The container terminal makes margins of 30%. The profit is about 400 million US dollars a year. (Numbers are from documents supplied by the dockers union).
The largest estimate I’ve seen of the number of people who work at the terminal, including crane operators, lashers, checkers and truck drivers, is about 3,000 people.
Let’s imagine that the Port makes “only” a 15% return on investment, a profit of $200 million. That is still an incredibly generous return (inflation in Hong Kong is about 3.6%). That leaves $200 million to be distributed to the dock workers. Divide up 200 million dollars amongst 3,000 people . . . that comes out to a raise of $65,000. PER PERSON. That’s assuming everybody works full-time and you don’t have to divvy the money up amongst part-timers – that would make the raise even higher. So the dockers could get a raise of MORE THAN THREE HUNDRED PERCENT. Everybody on that dock should make wages like they do in the ILWU. That is still assuming Li Ka Shing makes $200 million a year.
Meanwhile management is offering 9 percent. I’m just saying.
HIT shows no sign of conceding to the strike. HIT uses the close down of Global, announced on 18 April, to step up the pressure on the strikers. The moves of HIT in the last two days are prepared to demoralize the strike and turn the public sympathy around.
Global stevedoring, whose service contract with HIT is due on 30 June 2013 announced in high-profile close down on 18 April putting the blame on the strike and the union. The close down of Global is used to strengthen the bargaining position of HIT and the other contractors by misleading the public to believe that the salary demands for 24% of UHKD is un-acceptable in the market. The close down statement of Global was aimed to turn the public opinion around and isolate UHKD, HKCTU and the striker.
On the other hand, HIT has negotiated a deal with the HIT Union agreeing to give OT compensation of 1.4times the hourly rate, close to what the HIT union demands. The HIT labour-management meeting announced late last night an end to the work-to-rule effective from 12am of 20 April. The HIT union accepted the deal which was not put under a CBA and called its members to resume normal work.
This is followed by the HIT which put up a public statement in the local newspaper today to further undermine the strike. The statement criticizes the strikers’ demand for 20% increase in wages is “impossible to achieve”, “beyond the capacity of any company in the industry to satisfy” and will “collapse more companies leading to disastrous results”. The statement repeats that the striking workers are not the employees of the company. The company is only a party using the service of the contractors and is not obliged to negotiate wages with the workers. Besides wages, issue of long working hours should be negotiated between the contractors and the workers. HIT calls both parties to make concessions, particularly the workers to consider the “5%+2” proposal that Everbest proposed and return to negotiation with the contractor.
The other contracting companies also move in to divide the strikers by calling them up and inviting them, including the employees of Global, to join their companies.
The “5%+2” wage proposal held by the contractors, is believably the bottom line of HIT. This was the line kept by the contractors before the strike broke out and by now no major concession on the basic wage has been made except for giving meal allowances.
The striking workers are still very united and refuse to leave the picket line. The public assembly called by UHKD last night in front of Cheung Kong Centre was attended by about 2000 people under heavy rain. UHKD and HKCTU are demanding HIT and at least two contractors to come back for negotiation of a standard wage for the works UHKD represents.
Global released a public statement announcing closure of business in the evening. Global claims that the company has been meeting the union but failed to reach an agreement. The company is unable to meet the salary requests of the union and it does not serve the interests of any party to drag on the negotiation.
Global puts the responsibility on the union:
“UHKD and HKCTU staged the strike leading to the participation of more than 70% of its employees. Taking into account other negative factors, Global does not have the capacity to re-structure and continue the operation. The company decides to close down its sub-contracting business with HIT when the service contract with HIT ends.”
The company will lay off all the employees according to the labour laws.
UHKD is prepared for the expiration of the service contract of Global. UHKD calls Hutchison to step in immediately. Global is still obliged to resolve the dispute before 30 June. UHKD and HKCTU calls for an assembly at Cheung Kong Centre tomorrow night.
The strikers are employed by three contractors including 130 out of 170 crane operators under Global, another 200 from Everbest and more than 30 of them from Pui Kee. Global is closely related to HIT and was formed by its retired management.
The Strike of the Dockers in Hong Kong International Terminals
Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions
ITUC/GUF Hong Kong Liaison Office
18 April 2013
Background of Hong Kong International Terminals
Hong Kong International Terminals (HIT) is owned by Hutchison Port Holdings Trust (HPH Trust), the subsidiary of Hutchison Whampoa established to consolidate the terminal businesses for public listing in Singapore. HPH Trust owns Hong Kong International Terminals (HIT), Asia Container Terminals (ACT), COSCO-HIT and Yantian International Container Terminals (Shenzhen, China). At Kwai Tsing Container Terminal, HIT owns Terminals 4, 6, 7 and 9, ACT and COSCO-HIT own Terminals 8. HIT and COSCO-HIT shared more than half (45.86% and 7.28%) of the THEU of the Kwai Tsing terminal in 2012. Collectively, HIT and COSCO-HIT serve around 216 weekly shipping lines services (by trade routes).
By 2010 when HPH Trust was listed in Singapore, the total throughput of its ports in the Hong Kong, and China port markets increased by 11.9% and 19.8%, respectively compared to 2009 (HPH Trust Prospectus 2010). Its global container throughput also increased by 13.4% over 2009. The company recovered from the economic downturn in 2008 and reported increased revenue at HK$9,735 million, profit at HK$3,018 million, and net profit margin of 31% in 2011. (HPH Trust Annual Report 2011).
25 million standard containers were handled at Kwai Tsing Container Terminals in 2012.
Out-sourcing and false contracting in HIT
Before 1996, most of the jobs in the docks owned by HIT were direct employment. The company switched to aggressive out-sourcing after the lashers and checkers took a strike in 1996 to demand higher wages. HIT used its subsidiary company, Sakoma and later Hutchison Whampoa Logistics, to out-source most of the manual work, turning the truck drivers, crane operators, lashers and checkers into contractual workers under four to five contracting companies. The purpose was to prevent the striking workers from forming new, independent trade unions and to weaken their bargaining position. The out-sourcing also tremendously decreased the production costs of HIT.
HIT was then able to use false contracting to drive down the contracting prices and workers’ wages. According to the prospectus of HPH Trust (2010), the company relies on a pool of approximately 100 sub-contractors to provide between 2000-3000 daily workers to work in its terminals. In fact the four major contractors currently used by HIT are closely related to the management. Two contractors are found to be actually owned by the former and the current HIT managers. Gerry Yim, the Managing Director of HIT is found to be the Director of Sakoma, which owns the stakes in the contracting company Everbest (the major employer of the lashers and checkers that are on strike now).
“There was a significant decrease in the average cost per TEU for HIT from HK$374.2 for the year ended 31 December 2008 to HK$275.7 for the year ended 31 December 2010.” (Prospectus 2010)
Pay and Working Conditions
The working and pay conditions of the workers employed by the contractors were worse since 1996. The manpower of the out-sourced jobs was cut and carried by fewer workers yet the workload increased. For example the checkers were cut to work in six rather than eight, whereas the on-shore checkers has been cut from six to four, and three to two for the on-board checkers. The crane operators were working in three to operate two crane machines for 8-10 hours a shift before. Now only one worker is working on a 12-hour shift to operate a crane machine.
The contracting workers are not able to negotiate their wages, work load and working conditions with HIT and the contractors. The take-home wages of the checkers and lashers in 2013 are around USD142 per 24 hours (3 shifts); whereas the crane operators are paid USD90 per shift of 12 hours in 2013, lower than the pay in 1997 (Table One).
Table One: Salary of the contractual dock workers
*24 hours a shift
**12 hours a shift
Based on the interviews with the strikers, the salary of workers per shift are in the below (in HKD). Exchange rate: 1 HKD = 7.8USD
The contractual workers are working long hours and do not have rest which should entail at least one day after every seven working days, and twelve statutory holidays under the Employment Ordinance, not to be substituted by monetary compensation. Yet the contracting dock workers are generally given two rest days per month and they are not entitled to take the statutory holidays.
The lashers and checkers are often asked to work two consecutive shifts of 16 hours, or even three shifts of 24 hours in one go, whereas the crane operators work in 12-hour shift and sometimes two shifts consecutively. UHKD has documented even longer working hours of up to 72 hours consecutively with its members during the peak season or typhoons. There is no toilet, recess or lunch break for the contractual workers. The workers take lunch irregularly whenever there is less work to do and they do not have a proper canteen in the terminals to take meals. The crane operators are put to work in the cabin of 8-feet high above the ground. They eat and urinate in the cabin, and come down to the ground only when a shift ends.
Work injury and occupational disease cases are under-reported or even un-reported by HIT and the contractors. The Labour Department of Hong Kong has failed to identify and investigate the injuries allowing the occupational safety and health violations in the terminals to persist, and the non-compliant contractors and HIT free of their legal liabilities.
From 2007 to 2013, the four contractors of HIT, Everbest, Comcheung Human Resources Ltd, Lem Wing Transp Ltd and Pui Kee Stevedore have been involved in at least 28 work injury compensation claims cases registered by the Labour Department. Fifteen of the cases were associated with Everbest including one death case. The injuries include serious ones such as workers falling from height leading to paralysis, broken backs and limps, to injuries by falling objects and cuts by rusted steel rods etc.
According to UHKD’s interviews with its members, they are verbally warned or intimidated by the contractors with dismissals or less job assignment if they report the accidents to Labour Department. The injured workers are given at most 80% of their salary by the contractors during the injury leave and without any reimbursement of the medical expenses as entitled under the law.
Workers are asked to remain on duty under typhoons and bad weather conditions without any protective equipment or compensation. In general, the dock workers are made to work under highly dangerous and hazardous conditions exposing them to industrial accidents such as falling from heights, injuries by falling objects; and chronic occupational diseases namely repetitive strain injuries, hearing impairment, respiratory diseases and lung cancers.
Occupational hazards of the contracting dock workers (Interviews by UHKD and ARIAV, 10 April 2013)
Hours of work
Tower crane operators and Crane operators
Tower crane: 10 – 24 hours; 2-hour recess per 12-hour shift including meal and rest time;
Crane operators: 12-24 hours;
4 operators handle 3 tower cranes and 30-35 cargos per hour; 1 crane operator handles one crane in the cabin. No recess, toilet or meal break, not allowed to come down to the ground until the shift ends;
Ergonomics : Deformation of neck and spine for sitting and bending the head to operate the crane for long hours; repetitive strain injury; noise and impaired hearing;
Hazards under bad weather conditions.
Work under typhoon and bad weather without raincoats or protective equipments.
24 to 72 hours
2 lashers to handle 20-50 cargos per hour; No recess, toilet or meal break; No rest day unless the cranes are out of order. No objection or protection when working under typhoons or bad weather
Long working hours and stress;
Ergonomics: repetitive strain injury on the shoulders and arms;
Work injury: climb between the cargos by hands, fall from heights, slippery under rainy weather; injury by falling hooks, locks, steel rods and objects; finger cuts;
Respiratory diseases breathing in exhaust fumes from ships and trucks;
No protective equipment;
Work under typhoon and bad weather without raincoats or protective equipments.
24 to 48 hours
Four workers in one team, 5-minute break every 3-4 hours. No toilet and meal break.
Ergonomics: repetitive strain injury;
Injuries: head, hand and leg injuries; cuts by sharp objects and steel rods; slippery;
Respiratory diseases breathing in exhaust fumes from ships and trucks;
No canteen and not enough toilet facilities.
Work under typhoon and bad weather without raincoats or protective equipments.
Trade unions in the docks and discrimination
UHKD, affiliated to HKCTU, was formed in 2006 and has 600 members most of whom are the contractual lashers, checkers and crane operators employed in the terminals. UHKD has not been recognized by HIT and the contractors. The employers have have persistently neglected the union’s requests for regular meetings and negotiations.
The two contractors, Everbest and Comcheung did not respond to UHKD’s request for negotiation of wage increase for the checkers in 2011. The four terminal companies, HIT, Modern Terminals, Asia Container Terminals and DP World did not react to UHKD despite the union’s submission of a request for wage negotiation with hundreds of signatures from its members in July 2012.
In January 2013, a contractual worker was dismissed after he spoke up in the joint meeting co-organised by UHKD and the regular workers’ union to synchronise the wage demands. The dismissal provoked the contractual workers leading to the decision to stage a strike on 28 March.
Breaking up the strike
On March 28, the contractual lashers and checkers went on strike and they were joined by the crane operators on the second day. The regular workers under HIT Union also announced work-to-rule on 4 April. The 450 striking workers of UHKD and the regular workers have been subjected to threats and intimidations from HIT since then:
Court injunction to ban the strike – On 30 March, HIT filed to the High Court for an injunction to ban the Secretary General of HKCTU, Lee Cheuk Yan, the Secretary General of UHKD, Stanley Ho, 13 members of UHKD and the strike supporters from approaching and striking at the terminals. An interim injunction was granted on 1 April, and later reverted by the appeal court on 5 April to allow 80 members of UHKD to picket at the car park of the HIT terminals.
Threats of dismissals – HIT and the four contractors made open threats on 1 April to dismiss and blacklist the strikers if they did not resume work by noon the next day. The contractors put pressure on the regular workers to work overtime and sought temporary workers to replace the strikers.
Hiring strike breakers –HIT reacted to the reverted injunction of 5 April by sending a memo to all the regular and contractual workers promising to award HKD3000 if they returned to work on 6 April, and another HKD2000 when the operation of the terminal was back to normal. No strikers left the picket line. On 16 April, the media reported that HIT was hiring construction workers to replace the striking dock workers by giving them fast track training and the occupational certificates.
Bad faith bargaining
Demands of UHKD
Recognition of the trade union and collective bargaining rights
A collective bargaining agreement to include the results of the mediation applicable to the new contractors that HIT will use.
Wage increase of 24% ie an increase of HKD100 per shift of 12 hours for the lashers, crane operators and the checkers1.
Improvement in the working conditions – recess, toilet and meal breaks; improved safety and health protection in the terminals.
The Hong Kong Government
The Hong Kong government has failed its obligation as a ratified party to the ILO Convention No 87 and 98 to promote collective bargaining thereby prolonging the dispute and the strike. The Labour Department intervened on the seventh day of the strike, 4 April, by inviting the striking workers to send representatives to negotiate with two contractors, Everbest and Global, without giving the trade union recognition to UHKD. The meeting was cancelled.
From the first meeting on 10 April onwards, the Labour Department further pulled in two other trade unions, affiliated to the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions (whose members are mainly the truck drivers) and the Federation of Labour Unions (whose members are the regular workers under the HIT Workers’ Union) in the negotiation in separate sessions. The Labour Department did so regardless of the objection of the striking workers over the two unions’ representation of their interests in the dispute, and the move was a divide and rule tactic making use of the absence of a collective bargaining law in Hong Kong.
HIT and the Contractors
HIT and the contractors have not shown good faith in negotiating a resolution with the strikers. HIT had stayed away from the mediation insisting that it did not have obligations. The two contractors, Global and Everbest left have not shown good faith in the negotiation meetings that followed. They adjourned the first day meeting of the second round negotiation on 10 April, and Global even left the table during the recess in the second day meeting on 11 April without informing the other parties. Before the third round meeting on 16 April gave any significant results on the basic wage increase and the meal break, Global and Everbest adjourned the meeting without committing to resume the talk. Despite the 24-hour ultimatum sent by UHKD for continuation of the negotiation, Global did not come back to the table on 17 April which left the UHKD with no choice but stepping up its action for an un-limited sit-in at Hutchison’s head office on the same day. Up till now, HIT and Hutchison have not made any real move to negotiate a resolution.
According to the last negotiation on 16 April, Global and Everbest only agreed to:
(1) 5-7% increase in the basic wage per 12-hour shift, same as before, and increasing the meal allowance to HKD60.
(2) Annual paid leave.
There is no concession regarding the union’s demand for 24% increase in the basic wage and meal breaks for the crane operators.
Support from the community
Use of facebook and the internet for mobilization
A facebook was opened by the dockers last year to disclose the conditions of the dock workers which were not known to the public at all. B now the dock workers’ facebook has nearly 20,000 fans following on a daily basis, relayed by other bloggers and facebook users to publicise the issues. Solidarity actions targeting Hutchison are mobilized by other movement organizations on the internet, a brand new phenomenon in the labour history in HK.
By now the fund has raised HKD5.3 million from public donations. UHKD and HKCTU are able to deliver a total of HKD7500 by now per striking worker.
Solidarity from other trade unions and the civil society organisations
Other trade unions, the students organisations, the community ngos, the labour ngos, and the church organizations etc are coming in on daily basis to give food, water and other supplies to the strikers. A support group was formed to initiate solidarity actions including protests in the supermarkets owned by Hutchison in HK, community fund raising and signature campaigns and a 12-hour march around the territory on 14 April.
1 The HIT Union affiliated to the FLU demanded 12% wage increase and OT compensation of 1.5 times of the hourly wage. The demands of UHKD are made based on the 12 hour shift of the contractual workers who are paid not by a standard 8 hours as the regular workers are. The absence of a legislation on standard working hours also makes OT compensation un-enforceable for the contractual workers.
Li Ka-Shing, the world’s 8th richest human being and the man who controls the Hong Kong docks, is not only the man Hong Kong’s dockworkers are fighting — he is also one of the people our anti-tar sand friends in North America need to be targeting.
Billionaire Li Ka-Shing, both independently and through his flagship company Cheung Kong Holdings, has his hands in businesses around the world. As those who have been following the strike already know, Li is the Chairman of Hutchinson Whampoa Ltd (HWL), the parent company of Hutchinson Port Holdings (HPH), Hong Kong’s main port operator (Li’s Cheung Kong Holdings owns a 49.97% share in Hutchinson). HPH alone is a huge business. Controlling 13.6% of world container traffic in 2009, it has long been the world’s largest port operator (1). HPH operates in five of the six busiest terminals in the world (except Singapore) and in ports at both ends of the Panama canal. In addition to HPH, however, HWL owns two major telecommunications operations, the 3 brand and Hutchinson Telecommunications International Ltd (HTIL), which cover between them Asia, Oceania, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, with an especially large presence in Southeast Asia. The company also has investments in real estate and infrastructure projects around the world. But of special significance to those of us in North America is HWL’s energy and energy infrastructure investments.
Li Ka-Shing, partially through HWL, owns the controlling share of 70% in major Canadian oil company Husky Energy (2). Husky Energy is head-quartered in Alberta, Canada, the head of the Keystone Pipeline. Naturally, Husky is an investor in* and beneficiary of that project. Adding to its current oil operations of 5.2 million acres,the company is taking advantage of the new oil sands market and developing 618,000 acres of oil sands in Northern Alberta, with the Sunrise field its largest operational project (3). Husky currently has a commitment to shipping crude through Keystone and in its 2012 Annual Information Form discusses benefits of being able to ship to the Gulf Coast through Keystone. Husky operates a number of refineries in Canada and two in the US — the Lima-Ohio and Toledo-Ohio (co-owned with BP) plants. Through Cheung Kong Infrastructure, HWL also has investments in Stanley Power Inc, which operates five power plants in Alberta, Ontario, and Saskatchewan (4).
Share this story on Earth Day! As we think about the Tar Sands and fight the exploitation of native lands and the earth in general for a few people’s profits, remember Li Ka-Shing, who is one of those few, and the Hong Kong dock workers who also refuse to be exploited for his profit.
* Husky is an investor in the pipeline in the sense that it has made a “commitment” to ship a certain amount of crude through the pipeline. Any corporation which makes a commitment is entitled to a 15% equity share in the pipeline. (5)