Hong Kong, SAR: Dock Workers Strike Against Injustice

About 450 Hong Kong, Special Administrative Region of China dock workers continue their strike against port operator Hong Kong International Terminals (HIT), a subsidiary of billionaire Li Ka-shing’s Hutchison Whampoa, and its subcontractors. Struggling to live in one of the most expensive cities in the world, the workers are demanding higher pay and better working conditions.

The strike is crippling the third-busiest container port in the world. According to HIT, at least 90 vessels had bypassed the company’s container terminals since the strike began, and the strike is costing the company over $640,000 a day.

The strike started March 28 when members of the Union of Hong Kong Dockers (UHKD), an affiliate of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU), decided that they had had enough of low wages, long hours and inhumane working conditions.

According to UHKD, the workers have not seen a pay increase in 15 years, which makes it very difficult for them to provide for their families due to inflation and high living costs in Hong Kong, SAR. The HKCTU is a Solidarity Center partner.

Besides low wages, dock workers also have to toil long hours, sometimes 24-hour shifts, without regular lunch hours or breaks. Workers complain that the employee lounge has no air conditioning or running water, and is infested with rodents and insects. And they have been ordered to finish their work even after the typhoon signals were sounded.

The dock workers’ strike has received a great deal of attention from both local and international media, and gained wide support from Hong Kong, SAR residents. Under the strong pressure from the workers and their supporters, employers of the striking workers finally agreed to come to the table and held the first negotiation meeting with UHKD representatives on April 10.

However, the meeting, which was arranged by the Secretary for Labor and Welfare of Hong Kong, SAR, did not yield positive outcomes. Workers have vowed to continue their struggle until their demands are met.