05/07/2013, 00.00
HONG KONG

Hong Kong dockworkers defy Li Ka-shing's empire and win

After a 40-day strike, local dockworkers get a pay rise and better working conditions from contractors of Hutchinson Whampoa, a multinational company owned by the Hong Kong billionaire. For the first time, employers agree to write down their promises.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - After 40 days of strike, one of the longest in the history of Hong Kong, the city's dockers have won their battle against the empire of billionaire Li Ka-shing and accepted a 9.8 per cent pay rise Although the workers were demanding an increase in the "double-digit", union leaders accepted the proposal when four contractors pledged to improve conditions and write the increase into their contracts. The salary rise will be backdated to 1 May.

The work stoppage began on 28 March when hundreds of staff employed by contractors of port operator Hong Kong International Terminals (HIT), part of Li Ka-shing's Hutchison Whampoa empire, stopped work at the Kwai Tsing Container Terminals demanding better wages.

About 530 workers, said to be two-thirds of the dockworkers HIT employed through contractors, joined the strike at its peak.

Yesterday, the 430 remaining strikers and unionists went into a meeting after the High Court ruled that they would be allowed to continue protesting outside Li's Cheung Kong Centre until a formal hearing on a permanent injunction was heard. After a two-hour session, they accepted the offer and the strike was over.

"This is half successful," said Stanley Ho Wai-hong, spokesman for the Union of Hong Kong Dockers. "The most important reason why we have decided to accept the offer is because of the written guarantee from the contractors" who for years "have never put things in black and white and have only made promises verbally".

The contractors pledged all dockers would get pay rise. They agreed to allow dockers to stop work for meals or for toilet breaks whenever they wanted and to improve safety with the help of HIT. They also promised there would be no retaliation against the strikers.

The strike's positive outcome represents a step forward not only for Hong Kong workers but also in relation to mainland China.

Protected by its 'Basic Law", the city's British-granted constitution, Hong Kongers will have to face in the near future the prospect of coming under Beijing's total control.

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