Bloomberg News

Workers Continue Protests at Li’s Hong Kong Port Operator

April 02, 2013

Hongkong Intl Terminals Faces HK$5 Million Daily Loss on Strike

Dockers sit in front of a ship at the Kwai Chung container terminal during a strike asking for better wages in Hong Kong on March 29, 2013. Photographer: Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images

Workers at Hongkong International Terminals Ltd., backed by billionaire Li Ka-shing’s port operator, continued a six-day strike for higher wages after a court ruling barred them from entering terminals in the city.

The company has lost about HK$5 million ($644,000) a day as talks between workers and contractors remain stalled, Gerry Yim, managing director of Hongkong International Terminals, part of Hutchison Port Holdings Trust (HPHT), told reporters yesterday. It may also face claims from shippers, Yim said.

The time needed for berthing a vessel has lengthened to 60 hours from three hours because of the strike, Hongkong International Terminals said. Dockers started a sit-in on March 28, demanding a 20 percent pay increase as rising living costs and record home prices spur discontent in Hong Kong. Protesters were forced to leave the facility this week after the city’s High Court granted a temporary injunction barring them.

“We are not going to leave until we can talk to Hongkong International Terminals,” said Ho Wai-hong, a representative of the Union of Hong Kong Dockers. “We will keep fighting.”

No ships are being diverted to other ports, Hongkong International Terminals said in a statement yesterday. Hutchison Port Holdings rose 1.8 percent to close at 86 Singapore cents. The stock has risen 9 percent this year.

About 250 protesters, including workers, students and labor activists, remained on the street outside the entrance of the port in the Kwai Tsing district, Ho said.

Pay Dispute

Labor discontent in Hong Kong has risen as its wealth gap widens to the biggest since records started in 1971. Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. (293) in December agreed on a deal with the flight attendants union, averting labor disruptions threatened after disagreements on wage increases and working conditions.

Dock workers, who include crane operators and stevedores, say they are getting paid less than in 1997, union spokesman Ho said.

The union, which represents about 500 people working at the berths of Hongkong International Terminals, has raised about HK$650,000 since March 29 from supporters, Ho said.

About 3,000 people including truck drivers, dock workers and clerks work at Hongkong International Terminals, according to the union.

Hourly Wages

The dock workers are demanding that hourly wages rise by HK$12.50, the union said last week. In the review with the contractors coming up on July 1, Hongkong International Terminals will ask that workers get about a 5 percent pay increase, Yim said. The strikers won’t accept the offer, government broadcaster RTHK said on its website today, citing Lee Cheuk-yan, a lawmaker from Hong Kong’s Labour Party.

The strike will continue until employers agree to direct negotiations with the union, RTHK reported.

The laborers received pay increases of as much as 20 percent in 2011, Hongkong International Terminals said in an e- mailed response to questions.

The court injunction was granted after lawyers from Hongkong International Terminals said the size of the demonstration posed safety risks, Radio Television Hong Kong reported April 1, citing the ruling.

Hongkong International Terminals operates 12 berths at four terminals in the Chinese city and two through a venture with partner Cosco Pacific Ltd. (1199) Hong Kong has nine terminals.

Hong Kong’s consumer prices rose 4.4 percent in February from a year earlier, exceeding the 4 percent median estimate of 12 economists surveyed by Bloomberg.

To contact the reporters on this story: Jasmine Wang in Hong Kong at jwang513@bloomberg.net; Simon Lee in Hong Kong at slee936@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anand Krishnamoorthy at anandk@bloomberg.net


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