A dock workers’ strike in Hong Kong has now entered its fourth week, causing widespread alarm among local manufacturers and government officials. Crane operators and stevedores at Hongkong International Terminals (HIT) have demanded a 17-20% pay raise–currently, they make $7 per hour–and claim they are forced to work 24-hour shifts without bathroom breaks.
In response, contractors employed by HIT have offered their workers a 7% pay raise, which was rejected. Chinese manufacturers have been hit hard by rising costs and increased international competition–according to a recent poll, conducted by The Federation of Hong Kong Industries, 35% of those surveyed said they’d been negatively affected by a drop in orders.
After Shanghai and Singapore, Hong Kong is the world’s third-largest container port; during the strike, many vessels have been diverted to Shenzhen, China. The use of new ports is bound to cause shipping delays, according to the federation, and may have dire financial consequences for small and medium sized businesses.
Last Friday, the striking HIT workers made headlines when they moved their strike to the entrance of the Cheung Kong Center, a building owned by billionaire Li Ka-shing, who was recently crowned by Forbes as Asia’s richest man. Li owns Hutchison Port Holdings, the parent company of HIT. According to the International Business Times, the strike could cost Hutchison over $12 million, not to mention Hong Kong’s competitive edge.
Some striking workers have been fired as a consequence of their protest, but public supporters of the strike have donated or pledged more than $5.3 million to their cause.