The Hong Kong High Court has granted an extension of the interim injunction preventing full scale industrial action at Kwai Tsing Container Terminals.
Thirteen days have passed since the Union of Hong Kong Dockers (UHKD) commenced strike action, and the Hong Kong International Terminals (HIT) subcontractors still show no interest in negotiating terms.
Dockworkers have not seen an increase in pay for the last fifteen years, despite a booming economy in the region. According to a press release published by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), workers are reported to urinate, defecate and eat in their cabins “so that operations remain uninterrupted.”
The UHKD has therefore enforced strike action in a last ditch attempt to secure dialogue over health and safety, working conditions, pay parity between contract and directly employed workers and the exploitation of outsourced workers.
Due to the High Court’s extension of an injunction to prevent full scale industrial action, UKHD’s campaign for dialogue has lost its effectiveness with an increasing number of strikers returning to work.
A spokeswoman for HIT declared their daily financial losses have “reduced significantly” from HK$5 million when the strike started on March 28 to HK$2.4 million last Friday. The terminal is now “operating at about 80 percent of usual operating levels and are making steady improvements.”
A total of 90 vessels are expected to have bypassed the Kwai Tsing container terminals if the strike lasts until April 21, though the spokeswoman did not reveal how many vessels were scheduled to arrive during this period.
Chan Chiu-Wai, one of the strike’s organisers, disagrees with HIT’s claim. As only twenty of the five hundred dockers have returned to work, he remains sure the terminal’s financial losses remain high.
The Association of Freight Forwarding and Logistics estimate that 120,000 containers have been stuck for the duration of the strike, while industry experts have said the volume of cargo handled by HIT has halved as a consequence.
President of the International Transport Workers’ Federation, Paddy Crumlin, attended a solidarity meeting with the striking dockworkers at Kwai Chung Container Terminals yesterday afternoon. The discussion between Mr Crumlin and members of the UHKD addressed the issues of systematic welfare abuse as well as the inadequate remuneration of dockworkers at the terminal.
“It is critical that HIT engages with the outsourced workers and their representatives. HIT needs to respect the fundamental rights of these workers and their right to decent work, irrespective of whether they are directly employed by the terminal,” said Mr. Crumlin.
The ITF are committed to ensuring negotiations by offering “four and a half million transport workers around the world united in their solidarity with the UHKD and other workers in the port in the struggle for decent and fair pay.”
Ben Oliver Briceno, Staff Writer at Port Technology International.