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Hong Kong Striking Dockers Reject Offer as Contractors End Talks

Hong Kong Striking Dockers Reject Offer as Contractors End Talks
About 450 dock workers walked out on March 28, demanding higher wages and better working conditions. Photographer: Daniel J. Groshong/Bloomberg

Striking dock workers at billionaire Li Ka-shing’s Hongkong International Terminals Ltd. rejected a wage offer by contractors as the employers said they will no longer take part in talks to settle the 40-day labor dispute.

The workers won’t accept a 9.8 percent wage increase offered by four contractors at the port, Ho Wai-hong, representative of the Union of Hong Kong Dockers, said by phone yesterday. The contractors won’t negotiate further, according to an e-mailed statement jointly issued by the four companies.

The stalemate extends the largest labor revolt against Asia’s richest man, which began March 28 when about 450 dock workers, crane operators and stevedores walked off the job to demand higher wages and better working conditions. The disruption forced shipping lines to divert vessels to nearby ports including to neighboring Shenzhen, southern China.

“They’re showing a lack of sincerity,” Ho said of the contractors’ latest offer. “This is their one-sided move and the workers aren’t accepting at this stage because it wasn’t reached through negotiation with the union.”

Hongkong International had offered a HK$4,000 ($516) bonus to workers who returned to work by today. The company will consider the union’s feedback on occupational safety issues and will make improvements to work arrangements, according to an e-mailed statement on May 3.

Reduced Demands

The dockers, who are hired by the contractors, reduced their demands from an initial 23 percent pay increase to a double-digit raise after replacement workers were hired a month into the industrial action. The strikers earlier rejected a 7 percent increase from the current HK$55 an hour.

Hongkong International recorded a 7.4 percent drop in container throughput in the first quarter, compared with a year earlier, because of weak transshipment and European cargoes, according to the quarterly results of Hutchison Port Holdings Trust, its parent company.

Workers and their supporters are continuing a protest outside Hong Kong’s Cheung Kong Center, where the headquarters of Li’s Cheung Kong Holdings Ltd. is located. Lawyers representing the building’s management have been in a legal battle to ban the demonstrations.

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