Over one hundred striking dock workers in Hong Kong continued to protest over low pay on Friday, chanting slogans in the financial district and interrupting a Labour Day reception hosted by the government.
The workers gathered by the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre where the reception was held, demanding talks with the government officials.
Despite most workers being banned from entering the venue, lawmaker Leung Kwok Hung managed to enter the building and interrupt a speech by Chief Secretary Carrie Lam during the reception.
“Workers are squeezed, what’s the value of the Labour Day? To support the striking workers,” he chanted, whilst being dragged out by security.
Others inside the building protesters held banners saying “the Chief Secretary ignores the life or death of the workers”.
Lee Cheuk-yan, a Hong Kong legislator and a union leader, said he was “very disappointed” that Lam did not meet with the workers after the reception.
“We protest against her reluctance or her refusal to talk to the workers,” he said.
Some workers are asking for better working conditions from the middleman companies supplying labour to port operator Hong Kong International Terminals (HIT), controlled by billionaire Li Ka-shing.
One striking worker demanded a negotiation with the subcontractors and Hong Kong International Terminals.
“In the first few days, we came out and fought for the pay rise. But now it is a matter of dignity as they ignore us completely, including the government, HIT and our boss Global (Global Stevedoring Services, one of the subcontractors),” said Hook Chan.
Li Ka-shing, whose conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa controls Hong Kong International Terminals, is worth $31 billion according to Forbes, making him Asia’s richest person.
The workers, who have been on strike since the end of March, are demanding a 23 percent pay hike to make up for pay cuts in previous years.
The subcontractors, including Global Stevedoring Services, are offering raises of just 5 to 7 percent.
Earlier Friday, the High Court has granted a temporary injunction banning striking dockers and their union representatives from entering the Cheung Kong Centre, based in the city’s financial district.
The order will be effective until next Friday when the court hears a separate injunction sought by Cheung Kong, to also evict the protesters from the area outside.
In the meantime, the workers have continued sleeping in tents and eating noodles outside the building for about a week as they press their demands.
They have put up signs depicting Li Ka-shing as a devil and accuse his company of exploiting workers.
Hong Kong’s port is one of the world’s busiest and the strike has slowed shipments of toys, clothes and shoes moving from factories in mainland China to overseas markets.
(Copyright 2013 APTN. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)