Saturday, April 20, 2013

Hong Kong dockworkers go on strike

Hong Kong's dockworkers' strike has ended its 23rd day, attracting growing public support.

On March 28, some 450 stevedores and crane operators stopped work at the city's container terminal, which is the world's third busiest. Since Wednesday, 100 of them have been camping outside the headquarters of its operator - Hong Kong International Terminals - in the city center. 
The strike’s organizers say their wages are lower than 18 years ago, even without taking into account the effects of inflation. Conditions are also a complaint. 

Experts doubt if the strikers will win, in part because fragmented unionization means the port is still operating. Nonetheless, the public has donated more than $720,000 to a strike fund. Fellow dockworkers have traveled from as far away as Australia to show solidarity, along with local lawmakers and students who see the fight as part of a larger struggle against growing inequality. 

Since Hong Kong returned from British to Chinese rule in 1997, the city's economy has grown by over 60 percent. Median incomes, however, have stayed the same because nearly all of the extra wealth has gone to the rich. Numerous studies show Hong Kong now has the largest wealth gap in both Asia and the developed world. 

Hong Kong's economy today is dominated by a handful of tycoons who have profited hugely from a lack of anti-monopoly legislation. Richest of them all is the owner of Hong Kong International Terminals, Li Ka-shing. Hong Kongers increasingly resent him as a symbol of the gap between the rich and the lower middle class. 

While Hong Kong International Terminals says it has offered its contractors a 7 percent raise, the strikers are demanding 23 percent.

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