Members and officers of the Progressive Labor Union (PLU) of Domestic Workers in Hong Kong and its mother organization in the Philippines, the Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL), wish to convey our unwavering and deepest solidarity with the striking workers belonging to the Union of Hong Kong Dockers (UHKD), an affiliate of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU), the largest labor center in this territory and a close international trade union partner of APL.
APL and PLU want to link arms with the more than 400 workers – mostly crane operators and stevedores, and many are contractual or outsourced labor – who downed their tools last March 28 to demand for higher wages and better working conditions. We fully recognize that your demands for at least 20-percent pay rise and other benefits are just and reasonable to catch up with inflation after almost 20 years. Indeed, as the UHKD reveals, Hong Kong dockworkers are paid less than they earned in 1995 as they are merely paid HK$55 (US$7) an hour today or lower than the HK$60.70 they were paid 18 years ago, which was followed by a salary cut during the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak in 2003.
We strongly deplore the continued refusal of the port operator to meet and negotiate with the union and HKCTU because the workers are supposedly employed not by the port itself but by several subcontracting companies. But we in the labor movement and other social movements are more than aware that outsourcing and contractualization are both an old capitalist trick and an “upgraded” and more widespread neoliberal tactic being used to enable deceitful employers and corporations to prevent the workers from enjoying regular employment. Maintaining an army of non-regular workforce is highly profitable – since they receive cheaper wages, limited benefits, without security of tenure, and usually banned from joining unions.
We also echo the protesters’ cry of “Pay up Li Ka-shing” and “Richest in Asia, meanest in the world” as we condemn the “philanthropist’s duplicity” of Li Ka-shing, the wealthiest person in Hong Kong and entire Asia, and 8th richest in the world, who is worth $31 billion as of March 2013, according to Forbes. He is the majority owner of the Hong Kong International Terminals – where the striking workers toil but paid cheaply – since it is operated by Hutchison Port Holdings Trust (HPHT), whose largest shareholder is Li’s Hutchison Whampoa Ltd. The latter, in turn, along with another corporate partner, controls half of the capacity of Hong Kong port, the world’s third largest container port behind Shanghai and Singapore.
We could very well relate to the struggle of our dockworker comrades in Hong Kong, as we, the domestic workers, as well as many other workers in the Philippines, are facing the uncertainties of job insecurity, cheap wages and benefits, and constricted rights, including many purportedly inalienable labor and trade union rights.
Despite all these obstacles, workers and trade unionists in the Philippines, in Hong Kong and throughout the world must persevere to advance and defend our rights.
Long live the striking dockworkers in Hong Kong!
Long live UHKD-HKCTU!
Long live workers of the world!
Long live the labor movement!