Dockers lost HK$10m in wages

Updated: 2013-05-10 11:30

(China Daily Aisa)

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Dockers ending their strike have lost more than HK$10 million in wages, according to Hong Kong government estimates, while the dispute’s economic impact on the city container port will not be known until the release of statistics next week.

The wage loss was revealed on Wednesday when Secretary for Labour and Welfare Matthew Cheung Kin-chung responded to two legislators’ inquiries.

As the strike was called off on Monday, the aggregate amount of wages lost by striking workers exceeded HK$10 million based upon a “rough estimate” of the government, Cheung said in a written reply.

Total throughput of all Kwai Chung container terminals in March registered a year-on-year drop of 5.9 percent, but Cheung said the number bore little of the impact of the strike, which began on March 28.

The government said “freight has been delayed” and some cargo diverted, but that it remains difficult to assess strike losses since the April statistics will only be published next Wednesday.

Cheung said the competitiveness of Hong Kong’s port hinged upon its free port status, smooth customs procedures, reliability of port services and multimodal transport network, and that it would “definitely be undermined in the long run” if the strike were to continue.

Hongkong International Terminals announced a daily loss of HK$5 million days after the strike had begun, but later claimed to have recovered 80 percent of operations.

In reply to another inquiry, Cheung argued that if employers are required by law to negotiate with unions, the outcome may be “counterproductive” since it might strain the relationship between employers and employees.

“Discussion and negotiation conducted between both parties on the basis of mutual understanding are vital to forging and sustaining an amicable bilateral relationship,” Cheung wrote.

Most dockers that camped outside Cheung Kong Center will begin to leave on Wednesday night. Despite the strike’s end, uncertainty remains as to when the terminals can resume normal operations.

The Union of Hong Kong Dockers reaffirmed on Wednesday that dockers will report to work at noon on Thursday (today), though individual workers of contractor Everbest reportedly considered quitting after an unpleasant meeting on Tuesday night.