A dockers' union has described as "impossible" a claim by Hongkong International Terminals that some strikers have broken ranks and returned to work.
The Union of Hong Kong Dockers accused the port operator of playing with numbers in an attempt to divide the strikers. They threatened to escalate the industrial action if employers continued to show insincerity during negotiations.
Union spokesman Stanley Ho Wai-hong said a union member would leave today for London to meet the International Transport Workers' Federation to drum up support overseas.
The development came as the strike entered its 18th day without a deal on pay rises in sight.
HIT said yesterday the terminal was running at 86percent of its handling capacity and at 90percent during peak periods on Saturday.
"With more workers returning to their posts, terminal operations are becoming increasingly normal," HIT said in a statement. "We expect operations to improve further in the days ahead."
However, Confederation of Trade Union general secretary and lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan said workers are still on strike.
"What they claim is fake. HIT has passed part of its cargoes to other terminals and sought help from other contractors," Lee said. "I believe they want to show that they will not yield to the strikers."
Ho accused HIT managing director Gerry Yim Lui-fai of "playing number games" and misleading the public. "A total of 450 strikers remain in our industrial action. I know that some workers who are still working at the terminal have worked overtime for 72 hours and even 120 hours," Ho said.
The union said the terminal is only handling 15 containers an hour instead of 25 before the strike began. He said the plan is to escalate the strike unless HIT and the contractors show goodwill, though no notification has been received on when both sides will meet again.
The official leaving for London today to meet the International Transport Workers' Federation is the union's organizing secretary, Chan Chiu-wai.
"We'll talk about gathering other unionists working under Hutchison Whampoa, not only for terminals but in other industries as well from all around the world, to support our strike," Chan said.
However, an unidentified worker admitted that some strikers have been back at work for five days.
"We returned as we owe the company," the worker said.
The union said the strike foundation had accumulated HK$4.7 million as of Friday and they will distribute a further HK$1,500 to each worker on strike, the fifth handout since the strike began.
Meanwhile, 18 tertiary students yesterday walked from Cheung Kong Centre in Central to the terminals in support of the workers on strike - the trip taking 12 hours to symbolize how long the dockers had to work each day.
Each student held a rose as they walked one step every three seconds. They moved to the beat of a drum. A student was caged in a cart to symbolize the working condition of dockers.
After reaching North Point Pier, the students traveled to Hung Hom where they walked to Mong Kok, stopping to eat a lunchbox in 15 minutes, the normal mealtime given to dockers.