Airport stoppage looms

Updated: 2011-10-26 07:17

By Guo Jiaxue (HK Edition)

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Ground crew set for showdown, vowing work-to-rule unless demands are met

Air travelers face the prospect of total chaos at Hong Kong International Airport, with the approach of the peak holiday season, if a threatened stoppage by airport ground staff goes ahead.

The 300-strong Jardine Aviation Services Employees Union warned on Tuesday industrial action is on the cards unless their demands are met.

The union decided by 48 votes to one at a general meeting to take immediate action unless the company agrees to a 20-percent pay hike, increased manpower and better working hours. Union representatives claim they have been subjected to harsh working conditions for several years, accusing the company of being unfair to staff and inconsiderate.

Airport stoppage looms

The union said details of their industrial action will be revealed if a fresh round of talks with the management, scheduled for Thursday, crumbles.

Jardine Aviation Services, a unit of the giant Jardine Matheson Group, provides airport ground services for more 60 airlines in Hong Kong, including passenger handling, ramp and cargo control operations.

Airport ground staff complained that, for the past several years they have had to endure long working hours, sometimes more than 15 hours every day. Some of them have had only two days off in a month while others have to work for 20 days in a stretch, said union chairman Soo Man-tak.

One employee claimed he had to wait for six hours at the airport in between shifts, and the company only agreed to pay him a meager overtime allowance of HK$150. The crew are also demanding they be given the right to reject the management's request for them to work for seven consecutive days, an extra allowance for those willing to do so, and 12 hours of rest after every shift.

According to union secretary-general, Wong Yu-loy, Jardine Aviation Services had offered staff a pay rise early this year, but the increase was only a little more than HK$100. Besides, he said, over-time working allowances, which make up a substantial portion of their income, have not gone up for years.

Wong said a pay rise of 20 percent would be acceptable, taking into account the current rate of inflation.

The union and the management have held three rounds of talks on the issue since April, when the union was established, but no headway has been made.

He warned they would not rule out work-to-rule for a start, and even demonstrations to force the company to come to terms with them. Launching a full strike would be the last option.

Chairman of the Hong Kong Airport Ramp Services Employees Union, Li Wing-foo, admitted that the problem of manpower shortage has existed for too long. As of June this year, he added, they were short of about 1,000 people. But the number has shrunk slightly following a recent recruitment drive.

China Daily

(HK Edition 10/26/2011 page1)