HONG KONG — Tensions between striking Hong Kong dockworkers and subcontractors have escalated as the dispute drags into its fourth week.
While some dockworkers continue striking, others have returned to work, and the port operator, Hongkong International Terminals, has hired more than 30 new stevedores through an external contractor to fill the gap.
Hongkong International Terminals, which is controlled by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing through his stake in Hutchison Port Holdings, told WWD on Thursday that the strike has had “no impact to operations.”
“We urge everyone to return to the negotiation table,” said a Hongkong International Terminals spokesman. “It is only through direct and sincere dialogue that the striking workers and external contractors can reach a mutually acceptable agreement.”
Dockworkers have been demanding a 17 to 20 percent pay raise and claim their pay is now lower than it was in 1997. Negotiations have seemingly stalled as contractors have refused to meet the dockworkers’ demands and strikers declined a 7 percent pay raise.
The Union of Hong Kong Dockers held a press conference Thursday afternoon to press their case. The union said the industry has been posting strong profits and that a pay increase would be “a drop in the bucket” for Hongkong International Terminals. According to figures from Hong Kong’s Census and Statistics Department, container industry operating companies saw surpluses of up to 50 percent, far better than surpluses in the overall asset management industry.
Striking dockworkers have become more visible in recent days. About 300 striking dockworkers caused a traffic jam on a road near the Kwai Tsing Container Terminals Thursday morning, causing at least 50 cars and trucks to be stuck, according to The South China Morning Post. The strikers were deliberately marching slowly in order to disrupt operations, the report said.
Meanwhile, many of the dockworkers, who have been camped out in front of Cheung Kong Center, an office building owned by Li Ka-shing, have been forced to disperse. According to the Apple Daily, the property managers for Cheung Kong Center posted a notice Thursday morning forbidding dockworkers from gathering in front of the building and demanding that they disperse immediately. Spokespersons for Cheung Kong (Holdings) Ltd. did not respond to requests for comment.