Hong Kong Dockers Claim Victory

More than 500 dockworkers at the Port of Hong Kong ended their 40-day strike yesterday with a settlement that included a 9.8 percent wage increase. The strike, closely followed by mainland China labor activists and sympathizers, is a much-needed sign that resistance to global capital remains not only relevant but also possible. Photo: Left 21.

A 40-day strike of more than 500 dockworkers at the Port of Hong Kong ended yesterday with a settlement that included a 9.8 percent wage increase, non-retaliation against strikers, and a written agreement, all of which had been fiercely resisted by the four contractors targeted in the strike.

Strikers accepted the offer by a 90 percent vote.

The four contractors also agreed to work through the port manager Hong Kong International Terminal (HIT) to provide meal and toilet breaks, which had been lacking even for workers on 12- or 24-hour shifts. The union has started a campaign demanding the rehiring of 100 crane operators who were laid off when their contractor closed down during the strike.

Workers see HIT—owned by Li Ka-shing, one of the world’s wealthiest capitalists—as the real power at play, as the interview below demonstrates.

Though members of the Union of Hong Kong Dock Workers (UHKDW) had been holding to their demand for a double-digit wage increase, they had growing concerns about contractors’ use of scabs and the relative ease with which shippers could reroute from Hong Kong to the nearby mainland China port of Shenzhen. After the breakthrough accomplishment of forcing the contractors to negotiate, and clearly winning the battle of public opinion, strikers were ready to return to work.

The strike was notable in that dockworkers across multiple sub-contractors first self-organized, from the bottom up, before seeking affiliation for their union with the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU).

The political environment in Hong Kong allows inter-union competition between HKCTU and the pro-Beijing Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions (HKFTU). Workers have the chance to see the differences between the HKFTU’s pro-corporate brand of unionism and the HKCTU’s anti-corporate stand—but are also caught between the antagonistic interests. During the strike, HKFTU carried to workers the employers’ low-ball wage-increase offer (5 percent). These negotiations exposed HKFTU’s relative illegitimacy.

The support of students, particularly through the group Left 21, was critical to engaging Hong Kong society as a whole. More than HK$8.5 million (US$1,105,000) was raised for a strike support fund which stood at only HK$30,000 (US$3,900) at the outset. Financial contributions and solidarity resolutions came from the West Coast longshore union in the U.S. (ILWU), the International Federation of Transport Workers, and transport workers unions in Japan, Australia, and the Netherlands.

Solidarity actions such as informational pickets, slow-downs, or rallies didn’t materialize, however—although in the U.S. and Canada, the Steelworkers were considering action at facilities owned by Husky Energy, a subsidiary of Li Ka-shing’s vast empire.

Interview with Hong Kong Dockworkers Leader

Stephen Philion, associate professor of sociology at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota, conducted this interview with the dockworkers union Secretary Wong Yu Loy last week in Hong Kong. Philion also translated.

The battle of the Hong Kong dockers, as union Secretary Wong Yu Loy reveals, was important not only because of the rarity of strikes in Hong Kong, or because it was a pitched battle with Hong Kong’s wealthiest corporate magnate, but also because of the way corporate globalization set up the terms of the battle and the importance unions around the globe attached to it.

As Wong suggests in the interview, the strike was followed closely and supported by labor activists and sympathizers in mainland China. The strike thus has potentially powerful implications for a global labor movement much in need of a sign that resistance to global capital remains not only relevant but possible.

Click here for more information and updates on the strike.

Q: To start with, what are the key issues that that have brought about the Hong Kong International Terminal (HIT) dockworkers’ strike?

Wong Yu Loy: Wages and workplace conditions. From 1995 to 2011 wages for stevedores had been constantly cut to the point where the wages were less than in 1995. In 2011 the union finally succeeded in securing a HK$200/day (US$26) wage increase, which still meant daily wages were HK$150 less per 24-hour shift than in 1995. As for crane drivers, they are paid much less if they are hired by subcontractors than by HIT directly.

This current conflict started brewing around March of last year. We attempted collective bargaining, sending a letter to all the terminals demanding a salary adjustment for workers across the industry, but this was met with rejection. We were basically ignored by the dock owner (Hong Kong International Terminals), a unit of multibillionaire and Asia’s wealthiest person Li Ka-shing’ s Hutchison Port Holdings Trust.

Subcontractors used various measures to repress the union, most notably insisting on direct negotiations with individual groups of workers. But from the outset dockworkers had insisted that negotiations be conducted with union representatives. These negotiations met with no success. Now, for the 10 years prior to 2011 there had been no wage adjustments, and it’s in the last year that the conflict reached a boiling point. Workers had waited a long time for changes and were frustrated with attempts by subcontractors’ strategy of negotiating with groups of 100, 200 workers. How do you conduct such negotiations?

Q: But isn’t the union the representative of the workers?

Wong: Sure, but the subcontractors wouldn’t acknowledge this. Instead, they just regard workers as their hired help and repress the union where possible.

Q: How many dockworkers does HKCTU represent?

Wong: About 700 altogether who are our members. HIT employs about 3,000 and total dockworkers comes to about 5,000.

Q: And other unions represent them?

Wong: Yes, the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, which historically is close to the Chinese government. Now, of course, they’ve been around much longer than us (HKCTU was only established in 2006). However, many of its leaders have become “small bosses,” i.e., subcontractors. There is a subcontractor who is an FTU dockworkers union executive council member. So their approach is often to put forth what seem to be very appealing demands, but the results are always far less. So the mass of workers don’t have much faith in FTU.

Our union is only seven years old, organizationally growing step by step.

Q: Are there members of HKCTU that have left HKFTU?

Wong: Yes. A fair number of our members have worked on the docks for 10 to 20 years, or even longer. Mind you at that time HKFTU was the only union they could join. Some workers began to lose faith in FTU, not believing they represented dockworkers’ interests.

Q: What is the difference between how HKCTU and HKFTU approach organizing?

Wong: I think the biggest difference is that we organize from bottom up. As many of their cadres have been promoted to management level, they have considerable power to get dockworkers to join the FTU. A worker might feel they have little choice in the matter. But such union cadre can’t really represent the interests of dockworkers. Our union works from below persuading worker by worker to join and get organized, with the effect of enabling rank-and-file workers to make their voices heard.

Q: Have dockworkers who are not in the HKCTU shown support for this strike?

Wong: Yes, there have been examples of that in the form of dockworkers working to rule (slowdowns), and refusing overtime, having an impact on dock productivity. From what we’ve heard, roughly 80 percent of crane drivers are carrying out such actions, in all perhaps 500.

Q: Is the fact that perhaps only about a fifth of the dockworker workforce is on strike a challenge or barrier to this strike’s success?

Wong: The members involved in this strike occupy key skilled positions on the docks, as crane drivers or stevedores. This kind of skilled worker is hard to replace. Of those still working are truck drivers, who are all subcontracted out. You can imagine how easy it is to divide and conquer them. Interestingly, in 1990s this was the most advanced group of workers in terms of organizational power. HIT took note of this significance and broke them up via subcontracting.

Q: Yet there remain crane drivers at HIT working who are not members of HKCTU and not engaging in work to rule, right?

Wong: Yes, but keep in mind it’s not a sustainable situation since they have to work overtime, in some instances up to 48 and even 72 hours straight. The pressure on them is great!

Q: Work hours is also an issue in this strike, right? Which is tied to workplace injuries?

Wong: Yes.

Q: How do you explain that these issues have become so serious over the past decade? Main factors?

Wong: For one, the unemployment rate in Hong Kong has been pretty low, hovering around 3.1 percent, combined with a very high rate of inflation. Dockworkers look around and compare their situation with other workers in Hong Kong and in other countries. For example, in construction, bar benders, whose level of work intensity is roughly equivalent to dockworkers and who also are members of one of the more strongly organized HKCTU unions, recently reached a collectively bargained agreement that won them 50 percent pay increases that in three years will give them HK$1,800 (US$230) per day. That’s for workers who work only eight hours a day, with one hour for meal breaks and an additional half hour regular break. That is, they are only working 6.5 hours! So the dockers compare, “How come I work for 24 hours straight?”

Q: I have not worked on docks before—how do they last for 24 hours straight?

Wong: Well, they don’t work straight through, there are periods where they are not working for 5, 10 minutes. But during peak season, I’ve heard of extreme cases of workers working for one straight week. And they are working for 24 hours straight for $HK 1,300 (US$169). It’s terrible. This of course makes them unhappy, thinking, what was the point of exhausting myself so and getting so little in return?

Q: Is this kind of work-hours arrangement common in other countries?

Wong: No, I’ve seen the collectively bargained agreement of the ILWU [the West Coast Longshore union in the U.S.]. They work three shifts and have overtime pay. Medical care, pension, and children’s educational benefits are included. But in Hong Kong, we don’t see any of these.

Q: These workers are hired through subcontractors, right?

Wong: Yes, crane operators’ jobs in the 1990s were subcontracted out. Stevedores have been subcontracted out for even longer. The terminal owner (HIT) claims that they are not the direct employers of these workers, instead the ship owners are. The terminal operators hire dockworkers through the contract agent to work for the ship owners! For the stevedore workers, there are two main hiring subcontractors and three for the crane operators.

Q: Originally, were there more subcontractors? What about the role of subcontracting as a factor in pushing down dockworkers’ wages? We see competition between subcontractors as having this race-to-the-bottom effect in many industrial sectors in the U.S. and throughout the world.

Wong: Oh, this is one of the more amazing features of this industry. Why do I say so? In Hong Kong, though these subcontractors have a contract with the terminal operator, actually the terminal operators control the whole hiring system. The biggest difference of daily pay among subcontractors is all of HK$10-20 (US$1.30-$2.60), very minimal. Something funny is going on here—why is the difference so small? Isn’t there some preexisting agreement reached behind closed doors?

Q: So the purpose is not so much to push down wages as to enable the terminal operator to avoid responsibility for the low wages and work conditions?

Wong: Exactly. We researched the background of these “subcontractors”and it turns out they are nearly all registered shareholders in British Isles offshore tax havens. We suspect that they are controlled by the terminal operators who have worked out kickback arrangements with these contractors.

Q: How is globalization a factor in this strike’s occurrence?

Wong: Oh, I think it’s a big one. Globalization intensifies the degree that workers from different parts of the world need to compete with each other in a race to the bottom. Just a few decades ago Hong Kong was an important manufacturing center. As China underwent market-based restructuring, Hong Kong’s textile and electronics companies all relocated to China because workers there are cheaper. Now even Mainland China faces such problems, as manufacturers move to Cambodia, Burma, and Laos.

You know, dockworkers are a vital cog in the corporate supply chain. Any knots that emerge in that chain block movement to the next link. If the dockworkers were all to go on strike, this would cause many factories in China’s Pearl River Delta region to experience stoppages. If the containers can’t move, their commodities have nowhere to go. Major shippers might need to skip Hong Kong, going to Taiwan or Singapore instead. The effects will be felt around the globe. It is a very real form of resistance to globalization.

Cross-national solidarity during this strike is very important, therefore. For example, the Maritime Union of Australia has sent representatives here to express support. The ILWU has raised funds for the strikers and might also send a representative to the strike line. Even though they are not themselves on strike, their donations are greatly appreciated. These donations let Hong Kong’s dockworkers know they are not alone. We are brothers and sisters across the globe. This leaves a big impression on Hong Kong’s working class.

Q: What do you see as the significance of this strike for Hong Kong’s working class?

Wong: I think Hong Kong’s workers are very happy to see this group of some 500 ordinary workers coming together in solidarity as a formidable force able to stand up to the wealthiest man in Hong Kong and eighth richest man in the world. This is very encouraging to Hong Kong’s working class. Of course, we don’t have a tradition of socialism or social democracy in Hong Kong.

Q: So seeing so many ordinary Hong Kong citizens donating so much to the strike fund is really quite remarkable.

Wong: Yes it is. I believe that Hong Kong’s people see Li Ka-shin as up to too many nasty tricks. He’s got hands in everything, retail, shipping, manufacturing…so many businesses. Many are just worn down by his accumulation of power via monopolistic ownership. Concretely, we can see this from the strike fundraising results, which to date have approached US$ 1 million. We’ve never seen a strike receive so much in the way of financial donations from the general public.

Q: So how much was your strike fund before the strike started?

Wong: Wow, this is shameful! You know, union dues are very cheap, all of HK$10 per month. Almost nothing! Before the strike we had barely HK$30,000 (US$3,900), an evening meal for Li Ka-shin!

Q: So then the support from the general public in Hong Kong has been very critical.

Wong: Hugely important. I think their support is absolute crucial in enabling us to sustain the victory and achieving a victory. I hope that we don’t let them down.

Q: Your success would mean what to Hong Kong’s workers?

Wong: It would mean a great deal in terms of collective memory. Every donor will have a memory that they donated to the strike fund and a victory, and this would contribute to the gradual development of a new collective consciousness in Hong Kong.

Q: Likewise what is the significance of this strike for China’s working class?

Wong: Wow, it’s massive. And why? On the second day of the strike, I asked a friend who was more familiar with China’s internet discussions if there was much information about our strike. He responded that the strike has already become a “hot topic” in internet chat rooms. Mainlander students and visitors have come to our strike line and donated to our strike fund.

Q: Has the strike received any media coverage in China?

Wong: Actually, Xinhua.net, China’s official media station, reported on it and it was pretty fair in its coverage. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the level of support from within China. It’s partly a reflection of the hopes that Chinese labor supporters or activists have for our strike. They’re paying attention to the developments in the strike. They’ve sent several thousand $HK to our strike. They might not have a great amount of money, but it’s a way of expressing their belief in us.

A Chinese labor activist has also written up an analysis of the significance of the strike for Chinese workers. It’s quite well written, from a class struggle perspective. He argues that the Chinese working class movement also needs to develop similar types of strikes through an organizing process in lieu of the present trend of spontaneous short-lived strikes that don’t develop organizational power.

I also know that we have friends in Taiwan who have sent donations, along with Korea and Japan. In fact, the All Japan Dockworkers Union was the first to publicly show support for our strike with a public letter of solidarity. The ILWU has also sent a donation to the strike fund. Around the world Hutchison is known as a major terminal operator, so dockworkers internationally understand the significance of this strike.

Q: What is the likelihood of a success for this strike?

Wong: Well, to begin, in any negotiations, you know you’re not going to get everything you originally demanded. At this time (April 26) I can’t say with any certainty what the final result of the strike will be in terms of who will gain the most. But at the very least, the strike will show to the world that Hong Kong’s dockworkers have the ability to carry out a strike and are able to secure from the terminal operators fairer wages and work conditions.

Q: One of the subcontractors that is an employer of the striking workers has announced it is closing up shop. Will that affect the strikers’ ability to retrieve their jobs?

Wong: It shouldn’t. I am confident that the other subcontractors will look to hire them since in this industry there is a shortage of labor. It’s very hard labor and not many people are willing to do it. So I’m not worried about getting their jobs back.

Q: So far the negotiations have broken down several times. Do you anticipate that HIT and the subcontractors will finally negotiate seriously with you?

Wong: I think that they will get to a point where they have no choice but to seriously negotiate. As ports remain unable to get back to normal due to lack of enough skilled dockworkers, the need for more serious negotiations will be apparent.

Q: Do you anticipate the strike lasting through to (winter, pre-Christmas) peak season?

Wong: I think the striking dockworkers would like to settle this issue as soon as possible. It’s my own hope that after May 1, we could resume work. The terminal operators will also want to get this over with and get back to normal operations.

Q: For this strike you’ve chosen the non-peak season. Why not the peak season?

Wong: Hong Kong’s workers are very disciplined. They want to show the terminal operators that they are sincere and have integrity. And if the strike went for too long, that’s not something that would benefit us. But I also believe that after this strike we will reconsider our tactics and look at pursuing strikes in the future during peak season, as that would result in a greater likelihood that the terminal operators would respond to and meet our demands more quickly.

We would have the support of the public too. We can say that we already tried a softer approach to the strike by choosing the non-peak season and that wasn’t effective. We can gradually win over a Hong Kong public, that is not accustomed to accept future strikes, to a strike during peak season.

Q: What about the reaction of the Hong Kong government?

Wong: Really, it’s a handicapped government, impotent. They can’t do anything about Li Ka-shin. Only deep into the process did the Labor Bureau Secretary finally call for mediation, but that went nowhere. Of course he’s the richest man in Hong Kong and the government doesn’t have a mandate. It puts the government in a weak position. It has no popularly elected leaders.

I’m not saying U.S. elections are the ideal; they are contests between different wings of capital. But even the bare minimum of free elections in Hong Kong we don’t enjoy. The executive is chosen by 1,200 representatives. As a result, it’s a government with no real power to confine or restrict the power of capital. So I always say Hong Kong is a capitalist heaven!

Q: HIT has been placing quite expensive ads in many of Hong Kong’s newspapers attacking the union for this strike. How do you respond to those quite public broadsides?

Wong: Yes, it’s quite something. On the one hand we are not having any effect, according to HIT, but they are spending a fortune to buy up full-page ads in Hong Kong’s newspapers to smear us for “class struggle” (!). And it’s a real shame they’re willing to spend all this money on ads, but won’t put out for a fair wage increase. This is really ridiculous.

We respond with facts about the wage system, the fact that we are just seeking a reasonable pay, showing how our wages lag behind where they were in 1995. They say our demands will hurt the Hong Kong economy. We say the real economic predators in Hong Kong are the real estate speculators constantly causing the price of housing to increase. They claim that working 24 straight hours is something we volunteer to do. We ask whether HIT management is willing to work for 24 hours straight. In fact workers don’t have that freedom to reject such work hours.

Q: Actually, it’s understandable why they’re willing to put out money for ads instead of a fair wage settlement. If their strategy is long-term-oriented, it is to prevent future strikes and organization from below via breaking this dockworkers union.

Wong: Well, true, but Hong Kong’s citizenry feels the impact at the everyday level of corporate control and exploitation. So, the more ads they place in the newspapers, the more we respond with the truth and the public sees that we’re in the right.

Q: What means do you have to rebut them since you don’t have the resources of this global corporate giant?

Wong: We only bought a one-day ad in two newspapers, whereas they placed their ads in every newspaper for three separate days. But I think that the mass media in Hong Kong, with the exception of a handful who have sided with HIT, have shown their sympathy for us. That is a reflection of just how serious the level of inequality that exists in Hong Kong’s society is. In most countries, usually the mass media is pro-corporation. So this is a pretty exceptional situation.

Ellen David Friedman is a retired union organizer, on the Policy Committee of Labor Notes, and a Visiting Scholar at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou.

The introduction has been corrected to reflect that it is not yet certain whether laid-off crane operators will get their jobs back. Labor Notes stands by the content of this article.

Comments

cschiu | 05/21/13

2) "the FTU met with HIT management on 20th March and then relayed a 5% pay offer made by HIT to the dockworkers via text message"

I have seen THAT text message. If it actually says the FTU had accepted the management offer, there is no reason for me to claim the contrary. The text message(s) as presented by "Matou de Xinsuan" are in the bottom left corner of this well-known meme--https://fbcdn-sphotos-d-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-ash4/228904_5203107713... The operative part of it says a) HIT had offered a pay rise of AT LEAST 5% from 1 July 2013, and it would review the pay annually and b) The FTU would now consult its members on their views on this offer, and asked for the active participation of the membership.

In their zest to attack the FTU, both "Matou de Xinsuan" and Left21 have ignored the conclusion of the text which declared the opening of consultations and claimed, without any basis, that the FTU had accepted an offer which had NOT YET been fixed (NB: the HIT offer was to be "at least 5%"). In the 13 April Apple Daily article I quoted in my last post, Wong Kwok-Kin, the vice-president of the FTU, stated that since the management offer was substantially lower than the 10% they raised, the FTU dockers union decided to consult its members. The process was still ongoing when the CTU-led strike started on 28 March. To the best of my knowledge, no one has come forward to rebuke this statement of Wong Kwok-Kin's.

3)"...on the first day that the CTU tried to negotiate with the contractors to put forward their demands, the negotiations with the CTU were cut short so that separate negotiations could be held with the FTU and FLU at which they raised their lower offer"

As related in my previous posts, the FLU has asked the CTU to form a common front with the FLU and FTU, a request which was vehemently rejected by the CTU. It is well-known that the CTU attacked the government for facilitating the other two federations presence at the negotiations. It could be argued that the CTU would have a point IF the FLU and FTU had played no part whatsoever in representing their memberships and were bringing claims which were opposed by the great majority of not only the strikers, but the entire HIT docks workforce.

However, as the sequence of events I have raised in my last post demonstrates, the range of pay demand which would gather the greatest possible support amongst dockworkers would be the 10-12% backed by surveys of all the three federations. The fact that about 100 strikers resumed work between the bosses' unilateral declaration of the final 9.8% offer on 3 May and its acceptance by the CTU dockers union on 6 May speaks volumes on the lack of firm support for 23%, which Lee Cheuk Yan had to drop in late April.

4) It is true that the FTU and the FLU played a part in the demise of the law on Collective Bargaining proposed by the CTU.

However, it is hard to see the usefulness of that particular piece of legislation in this strike, if it was in force today. The CTU law stipulated that an employer with more than 50 employees were required to recognise a union supported by 25% of its workforce for the purposes of collective bargaining.

Although emotively used in denouncing the iniquity of the FTU and claiming that it would have secured an easier and better outcome for the strikers, this law would not have changed the situation substantively.

This is for one simple reason--the CTU was not well organised when it began the strike. Out of the 700 members Wong Yu Loy claims in his interview with Philion, only up to 500 struck. About 390 lasted the whole course of the strike. This means that about a third of the CTU's membership did not come out, and only about 55% were firmly with the strike. The distribution of the strikers would have meant that two of the four struck contractors were required to recognise the union for collective bargaining, but not the other two where strikers were only about 20% of their workforce, and of course, the HIT would not be obliged to recognise it.

It also goes without saying that recognition does not necessarily guarantee settlements in the workers favour. What workers can get depends on what the bosses can get away with--in a situation where only up to 1/7 of the entire workforce went on strike, that means a hell of a lot.

5)Tse Long
I am slightly amused by Mr Wong's use of Tse Long and his views here, because the latter was never made out to be a major force in this strike by neither the CTU nor the FTU. The one significant reference to Tse I have found is in this 27 April Apple Daily article: (http://hk.apple.nextmedia.com/news/art/20130427/18242028). In it, a HIT worker alleges that Tse had a close relationship with Lem Wing, one of the struck contractors. Tse's response, printed immediately after the allegation, stated that he had held no position nor owned any shares in Lem Wing. Tse admitted that he had engaged in business with one of Lem Wing's proprietors in the Mainland, but these dealings had ceased when the latter died in 2008. If Tse Long had more to do with the struck contractors, then it would be reasonable to expect more reports on this during the 40-day long strike.

The 2011 Wen Wei Po article which Mr Wong quoted from, states clearly that Tse has a business running China-Hong Kong haulage trucks.(http://pdf.wenweipo.com/2011/12/17/a21-1217.pdf)The article states, as Mr Wong has quoted, that Tse used to have a fleet of 20 trucks in 1992, when business was brisk and 500-600 firms with 15000 haulage trucks were active. According to Tse, at the peak of trade between 1995 and 1998, a driver earned between 30000 and 50000 HKD a month. But as business declined steeply with the opening of more container ports in the Mainland, and the decline of exports after 2008, Tse ran 10 trucks in 2011. Further down in the same article, Tse said that his drivers were also owners of the business, he would get contracts and the drivers would split the profits (i.e. he was running a partnership). In the final paragraph of this article, the plight of a Mr Chan, who used to ran three trucks before the financial crisis, is recalled. The general idea of the article is that cross-border haulage is being severely squeezed as an industry and both small operators and employed drivers alike were suffering.

Two things are reasonably clear from this article: a) Tse was not a big capitalist, but was a small operator who made his money in the economic heydays of the 1990s, when truck drivers could earn the deposit for a truck in a few months and formed their own small firms b) more pertinently for this strike, Tse was not involved with the docks, he was a cross-border haulage truck operator.

The other article that Mr Wong posted--(http://paper.wenweipo.com/2005/05/17/MR0505170001.htm) raises similar issues with his interpretations. This article states that Tse became a full-time paid FTU official after leaving school in 1977, but is not clear on whether he is still a full-time paid official today, given his business activities. What is clear is that Tse has not played a part in the negotiations during this dockers strike.

As to Tse's view's on welfare. Immediately after the part where Tse urged the Hong Kong government to "learn from the U.S." in reforming a welfare system which he believed did not give people enough incentive to find jobs, the following is printed: "He suggests that if someone receiving about 10000HKD in welfare gets a job that pays 5000HKD, then the government can pay him a 8000HKD subsidy. For those who are only willing to take welfare, food stamps should be given instead [of cash]." Whilst Tse is certainly no Engels, his views on welfare are fairly common not only amongst working people in Hong Kong, but also in Europe and the U.S.

But then again, this is neither here nor there, as Tse does not seem to be involved in the running of the union in the docks or played a part in the negotiations.

Let me remind the reader that Lee Cheuk Yan, the leader of the CTU, remarked that because the U.S. had a fine democratic system, "anti-terror" legislations like the USA Patriot Act was okay for him. This seems to be no less reactionary than Tse Long's views on welfare. But would this dent Lee's image as a real labour leader in Mr Wong's eyes? Presumably not.

Lastly, the Container Transportation Employees General Union that Tse is the vice-president of has about 2000 members, who are mostly cross-border truck drivers. It has about 2-300 members inside the HIT-run docks. I have commented on the issue of the CTEGU exec council member (a Mr Yau) who had been heavily attacked as "being part of the docks contractor management", who turned out to be much smaller fry than he was made out to be.

Yau was the person who made the notorious comment that strikers should think about business pressures when they raised the 23% and that those who believed it was possible should form a co-op to run docks contracts. These are harsh comments indeed, but a group of a few dozen strikers returned to work on the second day of the strike, 29 March, when one of the contractors offered them a two-year rise of 9.8% year each. When the bosses imposed 9.8% on 3 May, roughly a third of the strikers returned to work before the union ended the strike on 6 May.

At any rate, the CTU and the Hong Kong press did not make a lot out of Tse, presumably because he was known to be out of docks affairs.

In summary, all this hue and cry is little more than a diversion for those who refuse to discuss the CTU's tactics in this strike.

6)Sources of information.
Mr Wong complaints that I never bothered to give my sources of information. This is false. Whereas I did not provide links to Chinese-language pages (this is a U.S. website after all), I did give dates and names of media outlets for key quotations--and anyone can google and check if I have made these up.

Furthermore, while Mr Wong implies that I am a Beijing-financed slanderer, he has not been able to state which of my claims are false. On the contrary, he had to acknowledge that my key criticisms of the Friedman introduction were correct.

As to the Hong Kong Federations of Students having a pan-democrat leadership, this is just a statement of a known political fact, no different than stating that the Federation of Trade Unions is pro-Beijing and that the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong is a front of the Chinese Communist Party.

7)"The strike was initiated by the workers themselves".
I have demonstrated in my previous posts that this is a romantic and false representation of what had transpired. The three major union federations on the docks conducted large surveys and/or demonstrations in the lead up to the strike of 28 March. Mr Wong claims strikers and a NWSC official confirmed to him that workers sought help from them before they decided to approach the CTU affiliate.

Allow me to bring to your attention that the three core workers at the heart of the CTU dockers union (for this is how they are described) claimed that they had asked the FTU, the FLU, AND the NWSC before getting the CTU to organise the strike here: http://www.sharpdaily.hk/article/news/20130405/185288/%E5%B0%88%E9%A1%8C.... In this 5 April Sharp Daily article, the three claimed that they set up the aforementioned "Matou de Xinsuan" Facebook group in October 2012, after which they allegedly sought help from the FTU, which allegedly did nothing apart from staging a "mini protest". The three then remarked that "it was rumoured that the FTU were linked to the contractors"--again, why can't they be sure?

However, the timing doesn't make sense. The only demonstration the FTU staged against HIT was in August 2012, BEFORE the establishment of the Facebook group. And as we know, all three federations conducted large-scale surveys between May and August, workers would certainly be aware that a drive for a pay rise was being prepared.

Those who bother to check the dockers' Facebook group would know that it has not said a good word about the FTU anywhere but has been consistently pro-CTU since its opening. This contradicts the interviewees claim that they were non-partisan when they came together.

As related in my previous post, it is also curious for this same Facebook group to claim on 9 May that the 23% pay claim was proposed by a worker at a joint CTU-FLU forum on 27 December 2012, and that Lee Cheuk Yan had personally approved it. Only senior CTU activists would know this kind of information, not people who have came from "nowhere", organisationally speaking.

Given the frenzy of activity on the docks in the summer of 2012, and the key role core CTU dockers union activists and supporters have played in formulating the 23% claim and mobilising support for it, it is simply not accurate to claim, like Friedman does, that the workers first autonomously went on strike, formed an union on the picket line, and then sought affiliation to the CTU. This would be really impressive, but completely untrue.

It seems Friedman had simply copied and pasted the scenario of the 2007 bar benders' strike onto the docks dispute.

For the avoidance of doubt, my position is this: the working class in Hong Kong desperately needs a unified union movement that can fight against both the bureaucratic dictatorship and illusions in U.S.-style "free trade unionism". A first step in beginning this immensely difficult task would be the fight against unprincipled and negative tactics, wherever they come from.

END OF REPLY

cschiu | 05/20/13

Thirdly, having reiterated the key issues I tried to address in my original comments, and how they are a world apart from the Beijing-baiting obsessions of Mr Wong, I will comment on the key claims Mr Wong has made in his response, and the way he has chosen to use his sources:

1)"The FTU had illegitimately sought to interfere into the negotiations."
This is really curious. In the first couple of weeks of the strike, one of the most prominent criticisms of the FTU by CTU supporters was that the former was not doing enough to force the management to negotiate. However, when the FLU asked the CTU to create a joint union side with itself and the FTU at the government-brokered negotiations, the CTU vehemently refused, claiming that since the FTU did not represent the strikers, and probably no one on the docks, it should stay out (again the FLU's existence was wiped out by the CTU) and let it represent all the workers on the HIT-run docks.

I would like to remind the reader that the CTU, FLU and FTU organise different sections of the dock workforce hired by different employers but ultimately under the domination of Hongkong International Terminals. On the eve of the strike, the CTU had about 300 members, the FLU's three affiliates had about 600 and the FTU about 300. In spite of the political differences between the unions, it is obvious that co-ordination of their demands and actions would be crucial in bringing the utmost pressure on the bosses.

This brings us to the formulation of the 23% demand by the CTU. On 13 April, Apple Daily, citing information provided by Mong Siu Tat, the head of the CTU apparatus, reported that in May-June 2012, the CTU dockworkers union formulated a 10% pay claim after reaching about 200 workers. In early July 2012, it submitted a petition on the same claim signed by about 1500 workers. On 18 March, the CTU formally put the 23% claim to the bosses. (http://static.apple.nextmedia.com/images/apple-photos/apple/20130413/lar...) However, before raising the 23% claim, the CTU jointly raised a 12% claim with the FLU on 30 January 2013, in the name of Hong Kong Dockworkers Co-ordination Committee (http://the-sun.on.cc/cnt/news/20130131/00407_033.html)

The same 13 April Apple Daily article reported that the FTU conducted its own survey of about 400 dockers in August-September 2012 and reached a demand in the range of 8% and 10%. (http://hk.apple.nextmedia.com/news/art/20130413/18226652) In August 2012, the CTU and FTU, separately of course, put their demands for a 10% rise to HIT.

On 6 September 2012, the FLU announced the results of a survey it conducted in July-August 2012, to which about 700 workers responded. Half the respondents stated that they would like a pay rise of at least 10%, and 42% wanted an above inflation rise. More than 85% of the respondents wanted the restoration of the 150% overtime bonus. An overwhelming 97.8% wanted paid meal breaks. The findings of this FLU survey and earlier CTU investigations formed the basis of the 12% joint claim of 30 January 2013.(http://www.hkflu.org.hk/news/newsissue_edit4.php?Nsys_ID=668)

So, where did the 23% claim, the one thing that set the CTU apart from the FLU and FTU, came from? In response to this often-asked question, the well-known Facebook group run by CTU supporters on the docks, "Matou de Xinsuan" (roughly "Bitterness on the Docks") posted a status update on 9 May 2013 (https://www.facebook.com/pages/%E7%A2%BC%E9%A0%AD%E7%9A%84%E8%BE%9B%E9%8...). It explained that the 23% demand was raised by ONE participant at a discussion forum on 27 December 2012, with about a dozen people in attendance, which was subsequently adopted by Lee Cheuk Yan, the leader of the CTU. Again, the post was silent on the fact that the CTU and its affiliate the FLU had jointly raised 12% on 30 January 2013, just short of two months before the strike, a demand that was formed on the basis of surveys covering around 1000 workers.

The 23% demand was eventually ratified by a strikers' rally shortly before the first negotiation meeting on 10 April.

It should be clear that Mr Wong's assertion that the CTU was the only organisation with a legitimate claim to bring to the bosses is not backed by the facts.

cschiu | 05/20/13

Secondly, I have to say I am not at all impressed by Mr Wong's partisan view that my comments here amounted to "an unfounded defence" of the pro-Beijing FTU and a "vicious and unjustified attack on the CTU". As to Mr Wong's "conclusion" that I am either a paid agent of the Beijing regime or under the influence of such persons, it's simply a disgusting slander in service of his own obscurantism and partisan views.

My previous comments focused on two issues: a) the falsehoods and misinformation contained in the Friedman/Philion piece and b) the misrepresentation of the key events of this strike, and problematically, Friedman/Philion and Wong Yu Loy's complete disappearance of the Federation of Labour Unions (FLU)--the most organised union on the HIT-run docks, an CTU affiliate and also a co-adherent of the ITF with the strikers' Union of Hong Kong Dockers--which played an important role in the lead up to the strike and also led a slow-down during a part of the strike.

It is clear that Mr Wong Kim Rau is unable to counter my account of the relationship between the CTU and FLU on the docks before and during the strike, because I have only used well-known and verified information which is readily available in the Hong Kong news media. To justify his Beijing-baiting of my views, he made up a non-existent defence of the FTU on my part.

However, it is clear my comments were not and could not be about the FTU in any substantial way. Because a) the FTU on the HIT-run docks is smaller than the combined forces of the CTU and FLU unions, it was quickly sidelined and played no significant role in the strike; b) precisely because the Friedman/Philion piece initially claimed the CTU has led the strikers to a significant victory, it is natural to look into its veracity and the tactics the CTU had employed in this strike.

cschiu | 05/20/13

Firstly, I would like to thank Mr Wong for confirming that the central claims of the first edition of the Friedman introduction were false and misleading. Namely, that the strikers had successfully forced the contractors to negotiate with the union and won a 9.8% pay rise in a written agreement between the union and the bosses and the 100-odd crane operators who lost their jobs during the strike were reinstated as part of the "agreement". As I have stated in my first comment here, NO SUCH THING has happened. The bosses issued the 9.8% + 4000HKD offer as an ultimatum on 3 May 2013 and refused to talk with the unions. Subsequently, the bosses issued a written statement to the government confirming the terms of the ultimatum and the strikers' union then persuaded the strikers to end the action. Although the article now ends with these lines: "The introduction has been corrected to reflect that it is not yet certain whether laid-off crane operators will get their jobs back. Labor Notes stands by the content of this article." It is clear that the first few paragraphs of the Friedman article has been significantly altered to remove these false claims.

rau | 05/12/13

My response to CSChiu’s comment

Wong Kim Rau

While the strike is not a historical success, it is not one from which the workers have won nothing either. The strike resulted in a 9.8 % pay rise for workers and more importantly taught the management the lesson that they cannot treat workers like dirt. The strike has not been successful in terms of its original objective of obtaining a 23% or later a double digit pay rise. It also did not win union recognition either. But CSChiu’s comments entirely neglect the fact that the FTU’s pro-management role is precisely one of the factors which have worked against the strikers all along. Strikers have told us stories about how people from the Federation of Trade Union’s (FTU) affiliate, the Container Transportation Employees General Union, told workers not to go on strike as they should have regard for their employers!
The criticisms that CSChiu raises are clearly not simply intended to point out “factual errors”, rather they constitute an unfounded defence of the pro-Beijing (FTU), and a vicious and unjustified attack on the Confederation of Trade Unions (CTU), the trade union federation to which the striking workers’ union the Union of Hong Kong Dockers (UHKD) is affiliated. Indeed it is worth paying more attention to the role that the FTU actually played during the strike and how the behaviour of this organisation only acted against the interests of workers. The FTU did not represent those workers who went on strike. Despite this, however, it illegitimately sought to try and undermine the union to which the workers had chosen to affiliate to and to interfere in negotiations. CSChiu is keen to point out how the FTU and the Federation of Hong Kong and Kowloon Labor Unions (FLU) raised the demand of a 12% rise during the strike rather than 5% as the article claims. In this respect he is correct, although it is also worth commenting on the fact that prior to the strike, at a time when protests were already being prepared by the CTU, the FTU met with HIT management on 20th March and then relayed a 5% pay offer made by HIT to the dockworkers via text message. While the existence of this message can be easily checked, CSChiu did not provide us any proof for his claim that the Left21 report on this 5% pay offer is false. This earlier offer was rejected by workers, the strike began not long after and the FTU then demanded a 12% rise. More serious, however, is how CSChiu, in raising his point, neglects to say that the proposal of a 12% rise was being made at the same time that the striking workers and their union were still demanding a pay rise of 23%. To raise this lower demand at a time when the strikers were demanding a much higher increase should be understood as little more than an attempt at breaking the strike. It was certainly meant as an attempt at undermining the CTU. This is further illustrated by the fact that on the first day that the CTU tried to negotiate with the contractors to put forward their demands, the negotiations with the CTU were cut short so that separate negotiations could be held with the FTU and FLU at which they raised their lower offer. It is not surprising that striking workers commented on how they viewed the FTU’s actions as standing on the side of the bosses rather than the workers.
The CTU might not be an ideal union in every aspect, but the FTU is much much worse. The CTU successfully lobbied the last session of the legislative council in 1997 (when still under the British rule) to pass the law on collective bargaining. What did the FTU do instead? It undid what the CTU had achieved by getting its legislative councilors in the provisional legislative council (now under the sovereignty of the People’s Republic of China) to either vote in favor of or to abstain when voting in 1997 on the motion to repeal the law – a motion which was actively supported by the pro-Beijing camp of which the FTU was among – and as a result the law was repealed.
While the CTU has led many strikes against notorious companies, what has the FTU had done in contrast? One can hardly name any significant strike organized and led by FTU for the past twenty years. In the port industry, the affiliate of the FTU, the Container Transportation Employees General Union, is infamous for its inaction in protecting workers from attack by their employers. It has practically taken no serious industrial action to resist the attack on workers by the port management. A look at this union’s leaders may give one some clues. Tse Long is the vice president of the Container Transportation Employees General Union. He began to work for the union as a full time official in 1977. For years dockworkers have accused him of being close to the management. When the company began subcontracting services Tse also enriched himself and becoming owner of a fleet of trucks. It is also no secret that Tse Long, while acting as a leading official of the union, is also the secretary of the HK and Guangdong transportation association, which has more than a hundred company members and whose mission is to look after these companies’ interests (see http://www.hkntciga.org/hkntciga/?page_id=683). The reasons that Tse can play such a leading role in this business association is first and foremost because he is a businessman in his own right. In December 2011 the Wenhui Daily – an official daily representing the Beijing government – reported how Tse started the business: “In 1992, Tse Long came to Shenzhen to invest by setting up his company. At that time the Yantian Port had not yet been built,… and 90 percent of imports and exports in the Pearl River Delta had to been exported through Hong Kong. ‘My business (at that time) was incredibly good,’ said Tse. He had 20 border crossing trucks, five for himself, and another fifteen were subcontracted to other people, making an annual profit of more than 2 million HK dollars.” (http://pdf.wenweipo.com/2011/12/17/a21-1217.pdf)
So twenty years back when he was working for the union he was already a truck owner, and remains so today! If we compare Mr. Tse to Mr. Yau, the assistant supervisor of the company Global and also a union leader of the FTU affiliate, the latter is really nothing. One may wonder on which side Mr Tse will stand when there are disputes between truck owners and truck drivers? Surely Engels, Marx’s closest friend, was also a capitalist, and so the fact that someone is a capitalist does not always tell us about their political position. Another report, however, gives us some indications as to Mr. Tse’s political viewpoint about welfare (again, I can assure readers that this report does not come from some China bashing daily but from the same Wenhui Daily). The Daily quoted him as saying:
“Tse suspects that the present welfare system in HK encourages people to be lazy. This kind of welfare system needs improvement. The US welfare system requires that those unemployed do not get benefits indefinitely… After receiving unemployment benefit for a year it will stop, and be replaced by food stamps…. Therefore he suggests that (HK should learn from the US so that) those who want to keep on receiving welfare benefits should only be given food stamps in order to punish laziness and reward the hard working.” (http://paper.wenweipo.com/2005/05/17/MR0505170001.htm)
The crane operators who are now unemployed can rest assured that this great labor leader Tse Long will support wholeheartedly their right to food stamps.
Ellen David Friedman’s remark and Steve Philion’s interview did contain minor errors but these have not negated their content in any substantial way. In addition to this,they have already corrected some of the errors. On the other hand, although CSChiu tried to impress readers with his detail information about everything, one shortcoming of his response is that he never bothered to give the sources of his information. What does it mean when he depicts the Federation of Students as “pan-democrat controlled”? What is more is that his information is not always as accurate as he implicitly claims. He said that “the strike has been led by the CTU dockers union right from the beginning. Mr. Friedman’s account of a spontaneous worker upsurge which chose to affiliate to the only real union in town is simply a fabrication.” CSChiu’s response is technically right but fundamentally wrong. Surely the strike, which started on March 28, was led by the CTU affiliate from the beginning. But most strikes need some kind of discussions and preparations. In fact, nearly half a year before the strike, the dockworkers employed by subcontractors had already been discussing among themselves the need for industrial action. The CTU was not the first union federation that they sought help from. They first talked to the NWSC (Neighborhood and Workers Service Centre, who has a legislative councilor), but since the NWSC does not have a dockworker union, the workers finally decided to approach the CTU affiliate. This information comes from my interview with workers, and is confirmed by a NWSC official. Therefore the strike was initiated first by workers themselves. Ellen David Friedman’s account is correct in general.
Paraphrasing CSChiu himself, his response is merely a “propaganda piece for the FTU”. The problem, however is that FTU can hardly be defended from a leftist/progressive position. But what is more problematic about CSChiu is that the method he has adopted is closer to slander. This kind of method is very common among what Mainland netizens have called “wumaodang”, literally fifty cents party, people hired by the Chinese government to defend the latter in the internet. The derogative nickname is sometimes a bit misleading. Some “wumaodang” are very professional and are paid much higher than wumao. Given the slow but steady growth of interest in the labor movement and leftist culture in both Mainland and HK, there is also a growing response from ‘very leftist’ and sometimes ‘very revolutionary’ wumaodang, and they are becoming ever more ferocious in slandering and spreading rumors. This has a very negative influence among certain young and inexperienced leftists, who simply copy this kind of approach. Dear CSChiu, real leftists and progressives should not learn from these wumaodang.

cschiu | 05/11/13

A bit more on the background to the strike, and the disappearance of the Federation of Labour Unions by Friedman and Philion:

The strikers' union (a Confederation of Trade Unions affiliate) was not given recognition, the pay settlement was unilaterally imposed by the bosses, 108 crane operators who lost their jobs during the strike are still unemployed, about 10 strikers who are unhappy with the settlement have resigned from their jobs.

The Federation of Labour Unions, which is an affiliate of the CTU but maintains a distance from the Solidarity Center-funded leadership of the latter, organises about 600 workers directly-employed by the Hongkong International Terminals. The CTU and FLU dockers unions worked closely for a number of years and jointly raised the demand for a 12% rise and other improvements on 30 January 2013.

When the CTU broke ranks with the FLU in mid-March with its demand of a 23% rise, the FLU remained friendly with the CTU. On 26 March, CTU directed Left 21, the politics of which is roughly analogous with Albert Shanker's Social Democrats USA, to publish an article attacking the FLU and the pro-Beijing FTU (Federation of Trade Unions, organises the lorry drivers in the docks) as yellow unions set up and controlled by the company. However, the FLU refused to counter attack. When the strike broke out on 28 March, the FLU advised its members to not cover the work left by strikers. On 30 March, the FLU sent a delegation to the strikers to express its support and well wishes, and also submitted a demand to all the main terminal operators (not only HIT) to rise wages and improve conditions. When the HIT management kept refusing to discuss with the FLU and issued warnings to its members for not covering strikers' work, the FLU declared an official work-to-rule (slow down) on 4 April.

When the government got the HIT and the main contractors to attend negotiations in mid April, the FLU discussed with the FTU and got the latter accept its demand of 12% (the FTU previously raised the demand of 10%), the FLU also asked the CTU to join arms and present an united union front at the negotiations. However, the CTU's leader, Lee Cheuk Yan, vehemently refused and declared that the pro-Beijing FTU did not represent any workers.

All of this information is available in news reports, but yet completely disappeared by the Friedman-Philion article.

The complexity of the strike, with a multi-tiered workforce, the legacy of decades of outsourcing, unions which organise different groups of workers with different employers, rabidly anti-union bosses and a fragmented and weak union movement on the docks are completely dispense with and replaced by a Cold War fantasy of a good democratic pro-US union taking on the combined forces of the bosses and a demonic Communist yellow union.

I believe the Friedman-Philion piece is lacking in basic scholastic integrity, completely biased and unhelpful to the cause of trade union unity in Hong Kong and should be taken with a very large pinch of salt.

cschiu | 05/09/13

The following comments have been originally made under Stephen Philion's Facebook post of this article/interview.

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Stephen, while one is free to argue one's political positions, this article contains a number of serious and fundamental factual errors. For example:

1. There is NO negotiated settlement between the bosses and the strikers' union. The 9.8% proposal is not a "written agreement" between the bosses and the strikers, but an unilateral imposition by Hong Kong International Terminals. The bosses issued a statement declaring the implementation of a 9.8% rise for all staff on 3 May.

This was rejected by the strikers on 4 May because they believed it was not official enough. The strikers' union asked the government to intervene to get the bosses back to the negotiation table. However, the bosses said they would not talk to the union again and the strikers could do whatever they liked, and that the contractors were hiring more people to replace to strikers everyday.

On 6 May, the four contractors affected by the strike sent a written statement to the GOVERNMENT confirming that a) the 9.8% pay rise would be paid to strikers and non-strikers alike b) there would be improvements in the arrangement for meal and toilet breaks and c) there would be no victimisation of the strikers. The union is not mentioned AT ALL in this statement.

The government passed a copy of this statement to the strikers' union on the same day, who argued that the strikers should return to work. 90% voted to end the strike on the same day.

2. Your article stated that "Crane operators laid off during the strike will be rehired." This is inaccurate. One of the crane operators, Global, went bust during the strike, and about 100 operators lost their jobs. The contractors' statement of 6 May did not say that they would rehire these workers. In fact, they stated that they were not obliged to take any of them back to work as they were not their employees. The union has asked the government to facilitate job matching. This issue is not resolved at all.

3. As reported in major HK media outlets in the last couple of days, the unilaterally imposed 9.8% pay rise is in fact only a minute improvement over the previous offer of "5%+2%". It works out like this:

For a typical month where 15 24-hour shifts are worked, the "5+2" offer means:
a 5% increase in the base salary, which translates into 1050HKD and;
a 2% increase in "welfare benefits", which translates into a $250 hardship payment and $600 "meals subsidy", which adds up to a total increase of 1900HKD.

For the same typical month, the 9.8% offer means:

a 9.8%increase in the base salary, of 130HKD in every 24-hour shift. The total increase for 15 shifts totals 130x15=1950HKD.

In short, the 9.8% offer amounts to only 50HKD more than the "5+2" offer per month.

A number of strikers believed they were cheated out of the hardship and meal subsidies and said they would not return to work. Wong Yu Loy, who you various called the "secretary" of the CTU dockers union and "a leader", but in reality a full-time paid official, disabused the strikers of this when he gave an interview to RTHK on 8 May, stating that most strikers had understood that the 9.8% offer included all the subsidies. Ho stated in the same interview that whilst the union would facilitate a return to work, it would not force those unwilling back into work. He also stated that the 108 unemployed crane operators were waiting for the Labour Department's data on job matching, and hoped that they could return to work soon.

On 7 May, Lee Cheuk Yan, the leader of the CTU, stated in an interview with RTHK that the contractors' written statement to the government was key in ending the strike.He said in this interview that since the union understood that it was unlikely for more workers to join the strike, to prevent its collapse, it proposed to the strikers to end the strike.

In short,this is hardly a great victory you article is positing.

4. Your co-writer claims that, "The strike was notable in that dockworkers across multiple sub-contractors first self-organized, from the bottom up, before seeking affiliation for their union with the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU)."

This is a romantic, but completely false representation of what happened.

Furthermore,your own interview with Wong Yu Loy, printed immediately below Friedman's introduction, contradicts this version of events.

Left 21, a major partner of the CTU in this strike, published an interview with a CTU docker activist on 7 April. In this article, the docker activist recounted a previous strike the CTU led in 1995, which involved around 300 contract workers on the docks. The strike ended without any significant gains. Not only the bosses did not recognise the union, they broke up the strikers and reallocated them to different contractors, reduced the work crew, introduced speed-ups and cut the daily pay from 1400HKD to 1150HKD.

As a result of this major defeat, the CTU dockers union did not manage to reorganise itself until 2006. However, you mistakenly stated in your article that this was the year the CTU was established. The CTU was in fact established in July 1990.

The CTU has been the main union for contractor-bound dockworkers since 1995.

Before the strike began on 28 March, the CTU dockers union broke from its partner the FLU(Federation of Labour Unions, an affiliate of the CTU, which you completely disappeared in your article), and raised the demand for a 23% rise.

In August 2012, the CTU dockers union raised the demand for a 10% rise. The pro-Beijing FTU (Federation of Trade Unions) dockers union, which mainly represent lorry drivers, also raised the demand for 10% in August 2012--a fact which your article also disappeared.

Before the strike the CTU dockers union, which mainly represent contractor-employed dockers, worked closely with its affiliate FLU, which represents workers directly employed by Hong Kong International Terminals. The CTU held meetings and training sessions at the FLU offices. On 30 January 2013, the CTU and FLU jointly raised the demand for a 12% rise and other improvements.

After the CTU dockers union raised the 23% demand in March, it met with leaders of Left 21 and the pan-democrat controlled Federation of Students to mobilise student support and produce propaganda for the strike.

On 26 March 2013, two days before the strike began, Left 21 published a notorious article claiming that the FLU and FTU are yellow unions set up and controlled by HIT.The article falsely claimed the FTU had accepted the bosses' offer of 5%, but for the FLU, it could provide no evidence of any kind that it had betrayed the workers.

In short, the strike has been led by the CTU dockers union right from the beginning. Mr Friedman's account of a spontaneous worker upsurge which chose to affiliate to the only real union in town is simply a fabrication.

5. Mr Friedman claims that, "During the strike, HKFTU carried to workers the employers’ low-ball wage-increase offer (5 percent). These negotiations exposed HKFTU’s relative illegitimacy."

This again, is grossly inaccurate.

During the strike, the FTU and the FLU jointly raised the demand of a 12% rise at the negotiations. Anyone who has bothered to read the news will know about this.

This dockers strike was the most significant and long-lasting strike in Hong Kong after 1997 and deserve a more accurate treatment. Your article is grossly inaccurate inits depiction of how the strike began and how it ended. It is also completely one-sided in its treatment of the dispute between the Solidarity Center-supported CTU, the leader of which, Lee Cheuk Yan, should I remind you,has stated in public that he had no problem with the USA Patriot Act and other draconian laws attacking civil liberties because the U.S. had "a fine and democratic system", and the pro-Beijing FTU.

Your article sadly ends up being a propaganda piece for the CTU, which claimed it had about 600 members on the docks to most media outlets during the strike. Whereas the Federation of Labour Unions, which you completely disappeared, also had about 600 members, and the pro-Beijing FTU which you seem to depict as a major scab organisation had about 400 members. The total membership of the three major federations are less than 50% of the entire HIT workforce.

At the peak of the strike, up to 500 workers participated. This is about 1/7 of the entire HIT workforce. If Wong Yu Loy's claim that the CTU had 700 members on the docks was accurate, then we can assume that at least 30% of the CTU membership had scabbed.

All that glitters is not gold.

PS: Lastly,the CTU had alleged darkly in the Apple Daily and other pan-democrat outletsthat the FTU membership had moved up in their careers over the years and manyhad become part of the docks management.

In yourinterview with Wong Yu Loy, he inflated this further by saying that :"many of its [FTU] leaders have become “small bosses,” i.e.,subcontractors. There is a subcontractor who is an FTU dockworkers union executive council member."

However, this is a lie.

The FTU does not have subcontractors in its membership. The only specific allegation the CTU raised through the rabidly right-wing pro-Thatcher Apple Daily was that a Mr Yau, a member of the FTU dockers union exec council, was a "member of the management". However, the CTU would not be more specific as to Mr Yau's actual role at the docks. Mr Yau was actually one of the assistant supervisors with Global, the contractor that went bust during the strike. Mr Yau stated that he was not involved in the setting of the wages and conditions of the workforce, and that he never represented the bosses in negotiations. However,the CTU did not rebuke Mr Yau, they were seemingly happy to let the rumours flow, having done its intented damage.