7 May 2013 -Workers fighting for improved pay and decent working conditions at the Port of Hong Kong have voted to call off their industrial action after accepting an improved wage offer and promises of further negotiations on working conditions – as well as an assurance that there will be no retaliation against workers who participated in the strike. Full details of the settlement are included in a statement from the Union of Hong Kong Dockers (UHKD) below.
Responding to the news, ITF president Paddy Crumlin commented: “The Union of Hong Kong Dockers, supported by the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, has won a real victory: a pay rise and promises of continuing dialogue on working conditions and health and safety. Their bravery has been rewarded. We in the ITF and the wider union movement are proud to have been able to mobilise the international support they deserved and needed.” He continued: “We trust that Hutchison Port Holdings will now address the issues around the dignity and working conditions of the workers at the port.”
Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the ITUC (International Trade Union Confederation), added: “This is an important result for the dock workers of Hong Kong. We congratulate them on their resilience and determination to get a fair deal, and we are proud to have been able to give international solidarity in their quest for justice at work.”
The Union of Hong Kong Dockers has issued the following statement:
Members of UHKD decided in the meeting held this evening to call an end to the 40-day strike in the HIT terminals.
Written confirmation of the new salary plan 2013-2014 On 6 May, UHKD received a written confirmation jointly signed by the four contractors of HIT, Everbest, Comcheung, Lem Wing and Pui Kee via the Labour Department. The four companies confirmed the new salary plan of 9.8% increase in the basic wage for all their employees at different works in Kwai Chung Container Terminals, effective for one year from 1 May 2013. In the workers’ meeting called by UHKD in the evening, members considered the written assurance by the four contractors with the Labour Department a step forward compared to the verbal, unilateral announcement these companies made on 3 May. Although the strike has not secured a collective bargaining agreement with the employers, the 40-day industrial action has broken the “tradition” of unilateralism and succeeded in forcing the contractors to seal a written confirmation about the pay and working conditions.
UHKD believes that this is the first step towards building a mechanism of communication and negotiation between the employers and the union representing a large section of the contractual workers in the Hong Kong terminals. The four contractors’ written confirmation also gives details committing the employers to “improve the occupational safety and health protection with the terminal companies”, as well as providing the crane operators the right “to stop the machine to take lunch”, and “leave their workplace for toilet” as necessary. Members of UHKD consider that these concrete commitments are important basis for the union to further engage the contractors and HIT in good faith in the future.
Re-employment of the crane operators While calling an end to the strike, the union is now working to assist the re-employment of its members, particularly the hundred crane operators employed by Global Stevedoring which announced its closure on 18 April. The union is pressing the Labour Department to negotiate with all the contractors for the soonest possible re-employment of these members.
Non-retaliation UHKD will see to the end that the contractors abide by their promise of non-retaliation; and that none of its members will be penalized in the future for having taken part in the strike. The union will follow up to demand the contractors and HIT for a mechanism to schedule the rest and lunch breaks, enforce the safety and health provisions, review the salary regularly and eventually establish a collective bargaining mechanism that includes the contractual workers in the terminals.
Back-up from the community and international support The passionate support and generous donations of the Hong Kong community, the international trade unions and organizations have helped us to sustain the strike for forty days. On behalf of our members, UHKD is thankful to all of you who have been giving us unwavering support. Together with you, we have demonstrated again the importance of workers’ unity in fighting not only for reasonable pay, but also our dignity and our future.
Collective bargaining is a must for Hong Kong trade unions It is the time for Hong Kong SAR government to re-table the legislation on collective bargaining, scrapped by the government in 1997, in obligations under the ILO Convention No98. The working people in Hong Kong must have an internationally recognized mechanism on collective bargaining to ensure the right to fair negotiation of their working conditions and protection of the unions they belong to.