Workers' plight affects us all

Workers' plight affects us all

If you are bothered by the unequal distribution of wealth in Hong Kong, then you should support the workers' strike at the Kwai Tsing container terminal. This is no hasty conclusion; it's a logical argument supported by facts.

Hong Kong's Gini coefficient - an indicator of wealth inequality - has been widening in the past decade, from 0.525 in 2001 to 0.537 in 2011. Much of the blame lies with the government, which has been reluctant to address the issue of inequality.

The local tax system favours the rich while government policies are "over-protecting the wealthy, especially the large corporations", according to some academics.

The government has also been doing little to curb property speculation. Social welfare and labour protection policies are likewise lacking.

Our government boasts about its system of "non-interference" and "big market, small government", but what it actually means is that it protects the interests of the rich. The dockworkers, who work long hours for little pay, earn less now than they did in 1995. They are on the front line of income inequality.

Their union demanded a 17 per cent increase in workers' salaries, but the strike is not just about numbers. It is about protecting workers' rights.

Even a 20 per cent pay rise for all contract dockworkers would only amount to a tiny proportion of the port's yearly revenue. Think about that.



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