The world’s third-largest port is entering its thirteenth day of a major traffic jam. Striking dockworkers have effectively shut down parts of the dock controlled by Hongkong International Terminals (HIT), demanding a pay increase of approximately 25% that they argue would allow their pay to keep up with inflation. Currently paid HK$50 ($6.44) per hour, they’re demanding HK$62.50.
Unlike the strike that almost entirely shut down the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in late 2012, this one has had a more partial impact. Early estimates are that it has caused a 20-50% decline in the amount of cargo HIT’s terminals can process. But this has forced some shippers to divert vessels to other ports. The Association of Freight Forwarders estimates that some 120,000 containers were stuck at the port.
The strike is raising a political hullabaloo. The South China Morning Post’s editorial team writes:
Industrial disputes in our city always have an element of politics attached due to the involvement of the two main union groups, the Beijing-loyalist Federation of Trade Unions and the democracy-supporting Confederation of Trade Unions. But whereas such matters usually only involve employers, unions and workers, this time a host of other organisations have joined in to promote agendas. Using Facebook and other social media to mobilise participants, they include pan-democrat political parties, non-governmental organisations, community groups and students. What began as a demand for higher wages and better conditions by 450 workers has turned into a circus, with all manner of politicised barrows being pushed.
The same paper reports that representatives from HIT’s two contractors—Everbest Port Services and Global Stevedoring Service Company—are meeting with representatives from the Hong Kong labor department, HIT, and various trade-union organizations to work things out today (April 10). For its part, HIT has tried to distance itself from the negotiations, since outside contractors directly manage the workers. Strike organizer Lee Cheuk-yan was doubtful that the talks will result in an immediate deal.