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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Hong Kong Dock Workers call for global solidarity: Boycott Li Ka Shing!

《工人罷工,我們罷買:全球抵制李嘉誠商品約章》

Supporting Hong Kong Dockers’ Strike:

Global Conscience Pledge to Boycott all Li Ka Shing’s Products

1995至今,香港通帳累積高達28.5%,但香港國際碼頭(Hong Kong International Terminals, HIT)的工人月薪竟然低於18年前的水平。每當香港面臨經濟危機 HIT每每要求工人共渡時艱,單方面要求員工減薪,但經濟好轉時,HIT 卻拒絕與工人分享利潤。2013年3月28日,工人終於在忍無可忍的情況下發起罷工行動。罷工以來, HIT拒絕承認責任,直指工人乃外判公司之員工,HIT在追求利益最大化同時,也將責任轉嫁給外判商,懶理這些外判商侵害勞工權利的種種問題。作為李嘉誠全球王國下的消費者,我們強烈譴責HIT及其大老闆、亞洲首富李嘉誠罔顧企業社會責任,並願意以消費者力量,罷買李嘉誠商品,與香港HIT碼頭罷工工人並肩抗爭。

Since 1995, Hong Kong’s inflation has risen cumulatively to 28.5%, but the wages of the dockers at Hong Kong International Terminals (HIT) is surprisingly lower than the level 18 years ago. Every time Hong Kong faces an economic downturn, HIT asks for a pay cut to weather the difficult time through; whereas when there is a profit, HIT shamelessly refuses to share the profit with its dedicated employees. On 28th March 2013, the dockers no longer tolerate HIT’s greed and go on strike. During the strike, HIT shed its responsibility to its sub-contractors, claiming that those dockers were only the employees of the sub-contractors. Having only profits in mind, HIT also shifted its responsibilities to its workers, leaving them to merciless exploitation and inhumane working conditions. As the consumers of much of Li Ka-shing’s global enterprises, we strongly condemn HIT and its head, also the richest man in Asia, Li Ka-shing, ignoring corporate social responsibility. We pledge make use of the power of consumers, boycott Li Ka-shing’s products and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the dockers at strike!

外判制度:假效率,真剝削

過去廿年,香港的公營機構及私營企業不斷把服務外判,以提高效率為名,壓榨勞工為實。基層工人為保飯碗,只好啞忍。過去18年,罷工工人的工資不增反減,工作量更因人手縮減而不斷增加。沉默下去,工人恐怕連立錐之地也失去。故此,碼頭罷工不單是反HIT的運動,更是對外判制度作出反抗。碼頭工人的成功爭取,勢令反外判的抗爭星火燎原。

The Evilness of Sub-contracting – Exploitation under the name of Efficiency

In the past 20 years, both public and private organizations in Hong Kong have gone through the tide of sub-contracting its services, intending to exploit every drop of manpower from the workers for money. Powerless as they are, the grassroots workers have no choice but to shut up and work. All their effort, nonetheless, do not earn the respect from their employers – their salaries fell and the amount of work has yet been endlessly mounting still! Silence has only proved to make the contemptible deeds of exploitation unrestrained and therefore dockers are here to fight back. This campaign aims not only to target against HIT, but also to ignite the resistance to the system of sub-contracting. It is of great significance that our success in the strike adds fuel to the battle against the sub-contracting!

工人罷工,市民罷買,齊反壟斷

是次碼頭工人罷工,不但要對抗外判制度,更是要對抗龐大的李氏王國。李氏王國在香港除了壟斷碼頭業務之外,也佔有及寡頭壟斷其它民生及消費項目的地位。當中包括長江實業、港燈、海逸國際酒店、百佳超市、Taste、豐澤、屈臣氏及和記電訊等,每個香港市民都被逼成為李氏王國中的消費者。李嘉誠作為四大地產公司之首,嚴重壟斷及炒賣,導致香港樓價位列世界首位,反抗地產霸權已成為香港社會主要的社會運動。工人罷工,提醒了我們都是李氏王國的共同受害者,工人及市民必須團結起來,反抗壟斷財閥的剝削。

Strike! Boycott! – Say No to Hegemony!

This strike also reveals an inconvenient truth – the exploitation of the dockers lay roots also to the hegemony of Li’s enterprises. Li has unimaginable control over Hong Kong’s docks, in addition to his oligarchic ownership in many other aspects of daily consumption. It includes Cheung Kong Holdings, Hong Kong Electric, Harbour Plaza Hotel, Parknshop, Taste, Fortress, Watson, and Hutchison Telecommunications. Forced is every single one of us to be the consumers of his enterprises. Li, as the top of the four giant property developers, has devoted himself into the game of monopoly and speculation. His selfish act has pushed up Hong Kong’s property prices to the top of the world, that is why anti-hegemony has become the number-one agendum of Hong Kong’s social movements in recent years. The strike has clearly reminded us that we are all the victims of the hegemony. Together we must stand together to wrestle against these giants.

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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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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