14 April 2013

Docker strike in the Fragrant Harbour

This is important. Read it.

Li Ka-shing, the billionaire behind Hongkong International Terminals (HIT), controls more than 70 percent of Hong Kong’s port container traffic and oversees a vast transnational network of enterprises including the oil and gas giant Husky.

Arrayed against this financial titan often referred to as “Superman” are dockworkers exhausted by 12-hours shifts lacking even toilet breaks, surviving in one of the world’s most expensive cities on wages that haven’t risen in 15 years, and now waging a labor battle that observers are calling pivotal.

The confrontation appears to have tapped a vein of indignation against the “greed economy” and its glaring inequalities, bringing the workers broad public support.

Strikes are rare in Hong Kong, and strikes that gain this much solidarity are unprecedented in recent memory. The dockworkers represent a new level of action among the fastest growing segment of workers: subcontracted, not yet unionized, hyper-exploited.

Interesting to note here are the distinctions between the culture of labour management in Hong Kong and that on the mainland - including such places as nearby Shenzhen. On the mainland, because of the toothlessness of the official union federation, pretty much all strikes are wildcat strikes, but the government seems to be toeing a careful line so as not to appear too openly favourable to employers against their workers. In Hong Kong, there is the analogue of the official union fedeeration on the mainland, which has been sort of shamed out of this strike, but it now appears to be the pan-democratic aligned Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (香港職工會聯盟) which is doing the heavy lifting in supporting the strike. Please pass on this story; any expressions of solidarity with the underpaid, overworked Hong Kong dockworkers is greatly appreciated.


  1. Matthew:


    Thanks for your reply on my question concerning the change in background and banner. Congratulations too on your first two blogspots about the coastal-island parts of the Chinese world, especially this one. More power and dignity to the Chinese worker. Going to pass this as soon as possible. And that report about the Gosnell abortions, well it was surprising (underline on the last word). And why did she have to leave Bhutan? Unless she was Nepali (I hate to admit).


  2. Hi Idrian!

    Many thanks! I'm actually only indirectly acquainted with the plight of Nepalis in Bhutan, and that through the husband of my best friend from grad school, though I know the refugee situation is quite dispiriting.

    Actually, I had a question for you regarding the OCC / non-Mainland Chinese world - what think you of the impending elections in Malaysia right now, and the MNLF terrorist attacks occurring there? Do you have an opinion on Anwar Ibrahim and the relationship between the Malaysian government and the Filipino one? Would appreciate some insights from you on that, given that you are in the neighbourhood and infinitely more likely to be 'in the know'...

    Again, thanks for the comment, and sorry it's taken me so long to reply to you!


  3. Hello Matt.

    Now, I have to apologize for having gone so late in reading your reply, much less type my own reply. College exams have to do with it.

    As for what you're asking, let me start with your reference to MNLF terrorist attacks. The attacks in Sabah by the Sultanate of Sulu, for the purpose of reclaiming what they believe is their ancestral domain, is indeed backed by the MNLF and other elements apparently against the current Noynoy Aquino gov't. I'm sorry but I'm not knowledgable about the current Malaysian election, may look up on that later. I have yet to get updated on Anwar Ibrahim, but I'm of the idea that he prefers less government control or influence over the economy and society.

    As for the relationship between the Malaysian and Filipino governments, supporters of the Sultanate's claim say that the Filipino gov't is under the influence or control of Malaysia, as it doesn't aggressively maintain Filipinas' claim on Sabah and doesn't do enough to guarantee the safety and security of Filipinos living in Sabah, who are under harassment by the Malaysian gov't and largely unable or find it difficult to return to Filipinas. As for Sabah, I believe that Filipinas must still strongly maintain its claim on that area, for the reason of maintaining parity or equal status with Malaysia on this issue and strong ground for Filipinas to start talks with Malaysia that hopefully might lead to a power-sharing agreement on administration of the place or increased rent payments to the Sultanate of Sulu.

    Hope that helps.