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7-Day Strike Cripples Hong Kong Port

By MarEx 2013-04-03 15:31:00

Contract dockworkers continue their seven-day strike at Hong Kong’s busiest container terminals. Due to the strike, some vessels scheduled to dock at the port are facing delays as long as 60 hours. Those delays will ripple across the global supply chain, adding to costs as ships are forced to reroute or to skip subsequent ports of call, reports the New York Times.

This is also a rare occurrence as unions have historically been weak in the Hong Kong port.

The resulting stoppage has also hit productivity. Executives at Hutchison — which directly and through a joint venture with China’s Cosco Pacific handles more than half the cargo that passes through the Kwai Tsing Container Port — said the strike is causing it daily losses of 5 million dollars.

The International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) spoke out against a temporary injunction that throws out striking dockers from Kwai Tsing Container Terminals, Port of Hong Kong. Their statement follows:

On 30 January the ITF Hong Kong Dockers Coordinating Committee comprised of Hong Kong Storehouses, Transportation and Logistics Staff Association (HKSTLSA), the Union of Hong Kong Dockers (UHKD) and the Hong Kong Docks and Ports Industry Unions (HKDPIU) called for dialogue with Hong Kong International Terminals (HIT) and its subcontractors over decent working conditions for all workers regardless of their employment status. In response to a lack of dialogue from the company and its disregard for the union's call for pay parity, the Union of Hong Kong Dockers commenced strike action on 28 March, and is supported by its sister Hong Kong unions.

The ITF strongly condemns the attempts by HIT, which is owned by Hutchison Port Holdings Trust (HPH Trust), to deprive these workers of their right to strike via an injunction. The company's attempts to intimidate workers by threatening to dismiss strikers as well as its move to replace them with strikebreakers constitute serious violations of international standards. Furthermore, the ITF is calling on HIT to engage in meaningful, open and fair discussions with the workers' union to improve working conditions and ensure parity between the company's outsourced and its directly employed workforce. In addition, the ITF is calling on HIT to take full responsibility for its subcontractors, to put an end to the exploitation of outsourced dockers who are earning less for working longer; and to return to the table to discuss the reinstatement of the hourly overtime rate for contracted dockers.

ITF president and dockers’ section chair Paddy Crumlin commented: “This dispute has reached a critical stage. The ITF is calling on HIT and on Hutchison Port Holdings Trust (HPH Trust), to put health and safety, decent working conditions and respect for union rights first. The dockers have the full support and backing of the 4.5 million member strong ITF global union. Dockers in global network terminals around the world are watching closely, as are transport workers along the supply chain. Global network terminal operators in the stevedoring industry in particular have a critical responsibility to work with their employees to ensure basic labor rights are acknowledged and respected.”