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SLW on container terminal labour dispute

     Following is the transcript of remarks by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, after meeting representatives of the workers involved in the container terminal labour dispute at the Central Government Offices, Tamar today (April 22):

Reporter: (Where have you been in the past 26 days?)

Secretary for Labour and Welfare: I explained to the workers this evening that the reason why I met Hutchison Whampoa first, as I explained earlier on, was to really open the door to negotiation. The Government itself as a conciliator, we have to be seen as impartial in our dealing with all parties in order to build trust and to show our neutrality, it's very important in conciliations, not to take side with anybody. So by not visiting them, it does not mean that we are not concerned about their situation. In fact, we have been following the situation very closely. This evening's meeting was at the request of the workers and I acceded to the request quickly.

Reporter: (Can you explain if you have done a good enough job?)

Secretary for Labour and Welfare: We have actually left no stone unturned, we will continue our best endeavour in helping to diffuse this dispute. It's a very complicated dispute, it's not an easy one as we all know. We have actually gone a long way by opening the door to negotiation. Originally as you are well aware, both HIT and the contractors were most reluctant to sit across the table. Now, we had three rounds of negotiations and I urge the workers to continue the dialogue. It's only through rational dialogue that any labour dispute can be settled. It's not through confrontation, not through argument. It's through dialogue across the table.

Reporter: (Any concrete results after the meeting?)

Secretary for Labour and Welfare: It's a very useful two-hour meeting with the representatives. Our team listened very carefully to their concerns and also their demands. They also raised a host of problems covering the occupational safety and health side. I promised that we will certainly look into all these and take appropriate action on improvement. But it is very important for them to continue the dialogue across the table with the contractors concerned, particularly Everbest Port Services which employs over 400 port-side workers. And of these 400 workers, some 300 workers are on strike at the moment, so the employer concerned is very keen to get back to the negotiating table as quickly as possible and talk to the workers. So I urge the workers' representatives to get back to the negotiating table and we are ready to facilitate the dialogue.

(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)

Ends/Monday, April 22, 2013
Issued at HKT 22:37


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