With just five weeks left on their current contract, the Talks aimed at ending the eight-day-old dockers strike failed to materialize yesterday as both sides were unable to agree on the status of workers in the negotiations.
It was the first meeting arranged by the Labour Department.
The Union of Hong Kong Dockers had insisted it be recognized as union representatives and not just as representatives of the employees, but the contractors disagreed.
Earlier, the department sent out invitations to dock workers, contractors and the port operator, Hong Kong International Terminals, to arrange the three-way talks in hopes of ending the strike.
Four contractors arrived at the venue at noon but left before the docker representatives arrived at 2.30pm. The representatives left around 5pm when one contractor returned. HIT said it would not attend.
Labour Party lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan, who is assisting the workers, said he received a call from Secretary for Labour and Welfare Matthew Cheung Kin-chung around 12.30pm inviting union representatives to attend the meeting.
The union’s spokesman Stanley Ho Wai- hong said the talks were “meaningless” as only one contractor turned up.
He said the strike will continue until all four contractors were ready to talk.
Lee said the contractors were not sincere and said the Labour Department “was being slapped in the face.”
He added: “I have no idea why the contractors were there at 12pm. If they didn’t want to talk to us, why bother to go there?” But Chief labor officer Melody Luk Wai-ling said both sides had tried their best to attend.
“I hope both sides will put aside their differences and continue the discussion,” Luk said.
In a related development, about 300 port workers under the HIT Group Employees General Chamber launched a work-to-rule from midnight, saying they were not being paid for overtime work.
A spokeswoman for HIT said no directly employed workers joined the work-to-rule.
About 10 protesters gathered outside the Kwai Fong ParknShop – owned by Hutchison Whampoa, parent of HIT – calling on shoppers to boycott the supermarket on Saturday.
By Beatrice Siu