By KELVIN CHAN
HONG KONG (AP) â¿¿ Striking Hong Kong dockworkers refused to back down Wednesday in a weeklong pay dispute that is slowing cargo shipments at the world's third busiest port.
Several hundred dockworkers and supporters camped out on the road in front of a container terminal. The workers are demanding a 20 percent pay raise to make up for pay cuts in past years but subcontractors supplying labor to port operators are only offering 5 percent.
Hutchison International Terminals, controlled by Asia's richest person, Li Ka-shing, operates the terminal where the workers are striking. Officials say the action is costing the company 5 million Hong Kong dollars ($644,000) a day.The company has distanced itself from the dispute, saying that the stevedores are not Hutchison employees. It said terminal operations are continuing but truck traffic in the area where the strikers are camped has slowed down. The workers want Hutchison to negotiate directly with their union about pay. They're also demanding resolution of some health and safety problems, such as lack of bathroom breaks. Hong Kong is the world's third busiest port by container volume, behind the mainland Chinese cities of Shanghai and Shenzhen, according to World Shipping Council data. "There are some disruptions, particularly for the importers," which are seeing some shipments of perishable goods like fruit rot because they're sitting on the dock longer, said Willy Lin, chairman of the Hong Kong Shippers' Council. "On the export side it's slower to get the containers out of the terminals." Lin said he has heard that truck drivers are one to three hours late picking up and dropping off shipments because of the strike, but "so far we haven't seen major disruptions." The Shippers' Council, which represents importers, exporters and manufacturers, has advised its members to arrange backup plans in case the strike drags on, including having shipments move through other ports in China, such as nearby Shenzhen.