Skip to main content

Hong Kong dock strike cripples world's third busiest port

By Georgia McCafferty and Esther Pang, CNN
April 4, 2013 -- Updated 0436 GMT (1236 HKT)
Dockers sit in front of a ship at the Kwai Chung container terminal in Hong Kong on March 29.
Dockers sit in front of a ship at the Kwai Chung container terminal in Hong Kong on March 29.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Dock workers in Hong Kong are striking for the seventh day, crippling port operations
  • About 500 workers outside the world's third largest port are demanding a 15% pay increase
  • Hong Kong International Terminals is estimating berthing delays of up to 60 hours
  • Strikers attract groundswell of support from pro-democracy parties and students

Hong Kong (CNN) -- Hundreds of dock workers demanding better pay and working conditions entered a seventh day of strikes in Hong Kong Wednesday, crippling the world's third busiest container port and causing widespread shipping delays.

About 500 workers and their supporters gathered outside Hong Kong's Kwai Tsing Container Terminal, where workers demanded a 15% pay increase and a collective bargaining relationship with the container terminal operator, Hong Kong International Terminals (HIT), according to the strike organizer, Chan Chiu-wai of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions.

HIT employs the workers through a number of contractors. Company officials said that the port was losing about $640,000 a day and the strike is causing berthing delays of up to 60 hours, according to the South China Morning Post.

HIT is a subsidiary of Hutchison Port Holdings Trust, which is owned by billionaire Li Ka-shing's Hutchison Whampoa Ltd. HIT did not respond to CNN's questions Wednesday.

Chan said that dock workers were presently paid $167 per day for 24 consecutive hours of work, less that than they received in 1997.

"We have been asking to talk with them for a very long time but both the terminal and the contractors have refused to talk to us," said Chan. "This is an indefinite strike, we have no time limit and we will strike until our demands are fulfilled."

Chan said staff often work shifts of up to 72 consecutive hours during high-season. "For this work, the salary is very low, the working conditions are very poor and the hours are very long, so we are often in the position of being understaffed and the workers have to work many hours overtime," Chan added.

HIT dismissed claims that workers were being paid less now than they were in 1997.

"It's also wrong that their pay is now lower than in 1997 or during SARS," HIT general manager Gerry Yim Lui-fai told the South China Morning Post.

The workers have attracted many supporters among student unions and pro-democracy parties in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong Federation of Students have organized donation and supply collection points outside major train stations.

Hong Kong's pro-democracy Labour Party is also supporting the strike.

"We have raised HK$1.2 million ($154,000) so far to support the workers and we are paying them (HK)$1,000 a day during the strike," said Lee Cheuk-yan, Labour Party chairman. "We have also just gained the support of the International Trade Union Confederation and it's a very encouraging development. We are confident the strike will not be easily displaced."

More than 100 dock workers, including crane operators and stevedores, went on strike inside the Kwai Tsing Container terminal on March 28, demanding a $1.60 per hour raise. More workers have since joined the action, but they were forced to set up camp outside the port after a Hong Kong court granted HIT a temporary court injunction on April 1 banning unionists and their supporters from entering any of the four Kwai Tsing container terminals.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 0023 GMT (0823 HKT)
Wilson Raj Perumal tells CNN how he rigged World Cup games: "I was giving orders to the coach."
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 0920 GMT (1720 HKT)
Our whole solar system appears to be inside a searing gas bubble, scientists say.
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 0002 GMT (0802 HKT)
One journalist murdered, another still being held by ISIS -- a ransom negotiator talks to CNN about the delicate business of trying to get a hostage home alive.
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1155 GMT (1955 HKT)
The accidental killing of a gun instructor raises an "absurd question," writes Mel Robbins.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1255 GMT (2055 HKT)
ISIS has made surprise gains in Iraq and Syria in recent months, but may begin to suffer setbacks on the battlefield.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1844 GMT (0244 HKT)
The fear of Russian invasion is receding but peace may still be tricky to find.
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1228 GMT (2028 HKT)
Was a police officer justified in shooting and killing Michael Brown?
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 0815 GMT (1615 HKT)
Don't like the country you live in? Meet the people who created their own "micronations."
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 2157 GMT (0557 HKT)
The signs exist that indicate U.S. airstrikes into Syria are on the way.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 0946 GMT (1746 HKT)
We asked you what you would like to know about Ebola. Experts answer some of your most common questions and concerns.
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT