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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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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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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Dockworkers union respond to Hutchinson-Whampoa’s attacks on union

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
1995 $1,456 $60.66 2008 $1,060 $44.16
1996 $1,150 $49.71 2010 $1,115 $46.45
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)

Time: 7:30pm

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


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Q and A on Hong Kong Dockworkers’ Struggle

Xin Ercong and Chen Jiaming

Translated by L

*Original in Chinese is found on Left 21 website. If you are able/willing to help out with translations, please email us at hkstrikesolidarity@gmail.com

FeedLi

“Feed Li Ka Shing, and not our families”

1. Why did dockworkers struggle with the management?

Since 2003, the company has not increased wages at all. In order to feed their families, many dockworkers have to work consecutively for at least 24 hours. In the busiest of times, they have to work for 72 hours, which seriously affects their occupational health. However, the company not only ignores workers’ health, it refuses to compensate workers for working overtime or working overnight. There have been no wage increase for a decade, but work hours keep growing. This is really “feeding Li Ka-shing but not our families”.

2. The chronology of dockworkers’ struggle:

March 20: The Hong Kong Dockers Union (member of Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions) and dockworkers gathered at the Kwai Tsing Container Terminal to demand wage increase, but the company refused to respond to their demand.

March 23: College students and members of the Left 21 came to the Container Terminal to mobilize workers to join the struggle to strengthen solidarity and workers’ power.

March 25: Dozens of union members staged a protest in front of Hutchison House in Hong Kong Central, urging major shareholders and the outsourcing companies to negotiate with the union on wages.

March 26: Management held a meeting with about 40 contractors and employees, but the union and most of dockworkers were excluded from the meeting. After the meeting, management unilaterally promised a 5% wage increase or an increase of HK$3 to 4 (US$0.30-0.50) per hour which is far less than the HK$12.5O (US$1.61) per hour increase demanded by the dockworkers’ union. The union described the meeting as a farce and did not recognize the results of the meeting. The union and workers also expressed deep anger at the management’s response.

March 27: Some workers reported the presence of many police cars and patrolling by plain cloths police. The relationship between management and the police force was evident for everyone to see. But it also showed the management’s anxiousness toward workers’ struggle. The management also prepared several trucks. What is the management’s plan?

March 28: At 8am, more than 200 workers began an indefinite strike and blocked the entrance to the Terminal 6. Some crane operators joined the strike. The Hong Kong Labour Department started to dispatch people to negotiate an end to the strike.

3. What is the response of the outsourcing companies?

The response of the companies to the wage demand is of course lacking. However,  the use of White Terror tactics is not. The union received complaints from workers at an outsourcing company, saying that they would be immediately punished or even sacked by management if they join the union’s actions. Such White Terror is aimed to terrorise and weaken workers’ strength. [Update 4/18/2013, see here]

4. What is the current demand of the dockworkers and the union?

An increase of HK$12.50 (US$1.61) per hour for all workers

Adjustment of annual salaries

Management must recognise the union as negotiating partner

5. How would the strike affect Hong Kong as a shipping centre? (Hong Kong is currently the world’s third busiest port)

In recent years, we often hear that Shanghai and Singapore have overtaken in terms of some economic indicators and that Hong Kong is being marginalized. With the dockworkers’ strike, some would naturally say that the strike affects the status of Hong Kong as a shipping centre. Some would question that Hong Kong’s container throughput has already fallen to the third in the world behind Singapore and Shanghai, and the workers’ strike undoubtedly is destroying themselves.

However, using world ranking to prove marginalization creates problems. It assumes that every city has to compete with one another to be number one. But in fact, there is no extra reward to the city for ranking at the top. To discuss whether Hong Kong’s shipping industry is really in decline, we shouldn’t use ranking as the criteria. Interesting, our statistics shows that Hong Kong’s shipping industry has been growing.

If we look at the figures in the first graph below (source: Census and Statistics Department), we can see that in the past 12 years the container throughput (in tons) has been growing. Since 2001, Hong Hong’s container throughput only dropped in 2009 due to the financial crisis. It increased from 72460 (‘000) in 2001 to 157880 (‘000) in 2012, a two-fold increase. Therefore, the so-called decline of Hong Kong’s shipping is unfounded. Using “marginalization” and “decline of the shipping industry” to threaten workers is completely wrong!

Graph1


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“Port Workers In Hong Kong and Vancouver, USA, Fighting For Decent Jobs” radio interview

This is reposted from the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA)

An 8-min long radio segment that includes interviews with Chan Chiu-wai of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, and Paddy Crumlin, President of the International Transport Workers Federation

Please listen here

The MUA also sent a worker’s contingent to Hong Kong to march with the Hong Kong workers. See report here

scmp_16apr13_ns_strike12_k_y2128a_35244243

Image from SCMP