Is the Hong Kong Dockworkers Strike Almost Over?

 In China, Hong Kong dock strike, international business

Hong Kong Strike End is NighIt’s been over a month since dockworkers at the third largest port in the world went on strike, affecting import and export operations at the Kwai Chung cargo terminals in Hong Kong. Is it going to come to an end soon? If the Hong Kong government has anything to do with it, yes.

The Hong Kong government is making efforts to bring the parties back to the negotiation table and bring the strike situation to resolution.

Yesterday, the Hong Kong government invited the Union of Hong Kong Dockers to talks where the contractors who hired them to work on the docks will be present.

Hongkong International Terminals (HIT), the company owned by Li Ka-shing—Hong Kong’s wealthiest man—that operates the Kwai Chung cargo terminals where the strike has taken place will not be part of the negotiations.

As the workers on strike do not work directly for HIT but for contractors HIT hired, it has been HIT’s policy to stay out of the strike negotiations, though they did send a representative as an observer to previous negotiations.

The dockworkers on strike have been demanding a pay raise of between 17 and 23 percent. Contractors offered a 7 percent increase (2 percent of that coming in the form of benefits such as lunches for the workers) in the previous negotiations.

Not having had a pay raise over the last decade, the dockworkers turned down the 7 percent offer with feelings of not being taken seriously.

Bloomberg reported that the dockworkers are willing to drop their earlier demand of a 23 percent pay increase. Lee Cheuk-yan, the general secretary of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, said, “It’s open to discussions,” but also added dockworkers would still want a pay percentage increase in the “double digits”.

Does this mean they would accept an offer of only 10 percent from the contractors?

It’s hard to speculate, but despite their impressive feat of keeping a strike going for over aHong Kong Dockworkers Strike Nearing End month, the position of the dockworkers is weakening.

Bloomberg reports, “…an April 1 court order prohibited workers from demonstrating at the docks, [Canning] Fok [chairman of Li’s Hutchison Port Holdings Trust (HPHT)] said yesterday. The port operator has received interest for jobs at terminals from outsiders, said Gerry Yim, Chief Executive Officer of Hutchison Port Holdings Trust. (HPHT)”

Strikers had been taking their complaints to the offices of Li Ka-shing, but Bloomberg reported on that account, “Li’s Hutchison Whampoa (13) won a court order barring the workers from entering Cheung Kong Center to demonstrate, according to a company statement and RTHK. The court will hear arguments on May 3 over the workers’ right to protest in and around the building.”

Perhaps the signs they carried with pictures of Li with devil horns was a poor choice.

But probably the worst thing for the striking dockworkers is this third piece of information reported by Bloomberg, “Contractors at Li’s terminals in the world’s third-busiest container port hired workers to cut the waiting time for ships on average to 20-to-25 hours last week, compared with about 60 hours when the strike started.”

 So now it seems we’re getting close to seeing how this is all going to end.

One can’t help but root for the underdog dockworkers. But as the port has returned to 90 percent operation, is shrinking the delays caused by the strike, and the contractors are finding workers to replace those on strike, it is harder and harder to imagine the strikers getting a big win at the negotiation table.

The end does seem near and we’ll be watching to see how it turns out.

What are your thoughts on the Hong Kong dockworkers strike? How do you think it will end? Let us know in the comments section below.


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