Editorial Realistic Settlement of the Container Terminal Strike

【明報專訊】THE CONTAINER TERMINAL STRIKE has lasted more than a month. At first, the workers and employers failed even to make it clear who the employers and contractors were and by whom the workers were paid. It was only later that trade unions, workers, contractors, and port operator Hong Kong International Terminals (HIT) came to the negotiating table in their different capacities. Regrettably, they failed to come to an agreement, and the industrial action took an undesirable turn when the workers on strike moved from the Kwai Chung Container Terminal to Central, switching their focus from the improvement of employment conditions to an attack on Li Ka-shing and his son. What the workers and employers should do is to re-focus on the demand for a reasonable pay increase and better working conditions.

While workers are the key players in the strike, they are differently employed and work for different contractors. And while those whose work requires greater skill cannot easily be replaced and are in a better bargaining position, those whose work requires less skill are in danger of being replaced. These are realistic considerations that cannot be ignored.

The employers also cannot afford to ignore some very realistic considerations, including their public image and their competitiveness within the industry. The strike to date has generated much public discussion, and the workers’ perseverance and the social agitation caused have not only affected the business reputation of the port operator as well as its parent company, but also dealt a blow to HIT’s business. The continuation of the strike, therefore, will do no good to the workers, the contractors, the port operator, and Hong Kong as a whole.

The demand of the workers for a pay rise of 23 percent may be seen as exorbitant and makes it difficult for them to win the general support of society. In addition, it is strange that the union leaders have all the time insisted that the semi-skilled and skilled workers should act in unison in negotiating with the contractors. For the longer the strike goes on, the more disadvantageously placed the semi-skilled workers are. The contractor Everbest, for instance, which has about 250 of its semi-skilled workers on strike, has declared that it has taken on 50 new workers. As Everbest has clearly signified its willingness to resume negotiations, the semi-skilled workers’ problems may be solved more easily if the union leaders agree to address separately the problems of the skilled and semi-skilled workers.

The employers must also be genuinely prepared to negotiate. While the contractors are the workers’ direct employers, HIT can hardly stay on the sidelines all the time. If HIT will play a more active part in the negotiations to come, the dialogue between the contractors and workers is likely to be more fruitful.

Yesterday, union leader Lee Cheuk-yan declared that a double-digit pay increase would be acceptable. The contractors, meanwhile, said an increase would be unaffordable only if it was to be more than 10 percent. So the two sides are coming somewhat closer to agreement. If the contractors can also offer some concrete promise of better working conditions, the government should be able to bring the two sides together so that they may make certain concessions without losing face, thus bringing the strike to an end.

It is often less costly to resolve labour disputes by negotiation than confrontation. The right thing for the workers and employers to do now is to leave emotions behind and, in compliance with reason, return to the negotiating table.

明報社評 2013.04.29﹕為工友為碼頭實事求是 聚焦合理加幅人性管理

貨櫃碼頭工潮已經持續超過一個月。工潮爆發之初,勞資雙方甚至連誰是資方、誰是外判商、誰向工人支薪等問題都未能釐清,後來工會、工人、外判商與香港國際資櫃碼頭公司(HIT)以不同身分坐到談判桌,可惜談不攏。工潮亦開始變質,罷工舞台由葵涌貨櫃碼頭轉到中環,原初只是爭取改善僱傭條件,後來轉變為針對李嘉誠父子。我們建議勞資雙方再度聚焦「合理加薪幅度及改善工作條件」兩方面。

工人是工潮的主角,這次工潮涉及不同工種,也涉及多家外判商,部分工種技術成分較高,不容易被替代,談判籌碼較多;但部分工種技術成分較低,工人被替代的風險較高,這是現實問題。

至於資方,同樣也要認真考量現實問題(包括社會形象、公司在業內的競爭力)。工潮發展至今,已引起社會廣泛討論,工人持續抗爭並觸發社會行動,已對碼頭營運者及其母公司的商譽構成影響,生意也受損。所以,罷工持續下去,工人、外判商、碼頭營運者及香港都會變成輸家。

今次工潮,勞方要求加薪23%,會被視為開天索價,較難爭取社會的普遍支持。至於勞方將半技術工人和技術工人綑綁一起來與外判商談判,也是令人費解,例如有大約250名半技術工人參加罷工的外判商永豐,已表明聘請了50名新人,工潮愈拖得長,對這些半技術工人的影響愈大。尤其是外判商永豐表明願意談判,若勞方真的願意分開處理不同工種的問題,應該較易解決半技術工人的問題。

資方同樣應該拿出對話誠意。雖然外判商是工人的直接僱主,但HIT很難完全置身事外,在未來的談判中,HIT若能扮演較積極角色,應有助促成外判商與工人開展更有意義的對話。

工潮發展至昨天,工會領袖李卓人表明接受雙位數的加薪,外判商則說加薪超過10%才有困難,雙方距離略見收窄。若外判商也能在工作環境等問題許下具體承諾,政府再從中穿針引線,為雙方安排下台階,今次工潮就有解決的曙光。

勞資糾紛透過對話解決的代價往往低過對抗的代價。放下情緒,回歸理性,重返談判桌,才是正途。

Glossary

bargain﹕discuss prices, conditions, etc with somebody in order to reach an agreement that is acceptable

agitation﹕public argument or action for social or political change

in unison﹕if two groups, governments etc do something in unison, they do it together because they agree with each other

休刊啟事 明天(5月1日)為勞動節公眾假期,英文社評及英文專欄休刊一天,5月2日復刊,敬請留意。編輯部

Give me comment!

在下方填入你的資料或按右方圖示以社群網站登入:

WordPress.com 標誌

您的留言將使用 WordPress.com 帳號。 登出 /  變更 )

Google photo

您的留言將使用 Google 帳號。 登出 /  變更 )

Twitter picture

您的留言將使用 Twitter 帳號。 登出 /  變更 )

Facebook照片

您的留言將使用 Facebook 帳號。 登出 /  變更 )

連結到 %s

%d 位部落客按了讚: