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No lunch or toilet breaks

Published on Friday, 26 Apr 2013
Crane operators stay in their cabins for entire 12-hour shifts.
Photo: Chan KK

Chan Ka-kui is among the hundreds of dock workers who were on strike outside the Cheung Kong Centre - the headquarters of HIT parent company Hutchison Whampoa - in Central.

A former construction worker, Chan was employed by Global Stevedoring Service, an HIT sub-contractor, a year ago as a rubber-tyre gantry-crane operator at the docks. He had hoped that it would be a less gruelling working environment than his previous job, but instead, he now says, it has turned out to be a nightmare, leaving him with poor health and broken family relations.

Chan works 12 hours a day, from 8am to 8pm, or vice versa. This might not seem overly excessive, but he spends the entire 12 hours in the control room of his crane, which is located about 24 metres up from the ground. "I never get to leave the control room. There is no lunch break. I use a rope to fish up lunch boxes and I eat in the control room while I work," he says.

Toilet breaks are also not provided. "Going to the toilet is a shady business. We don't have the privacy of being in a toilet. We simply pee onto the top of containers. It is disgusting and unhygienic, but we don't have a choice. There are surveillance cameras everywhere, and there is a good chance that other employees will catch me on camera doing my business. I don't think I get the respect a human being deserves," he says.

The long hours spent sitting in the control room has given Chan chronic pain in his neck and back. The conditions in the control room are also unbearable, he says. His seat is tattered, with pieces of cotton stuffing coming out from the chair. The air-conditioner is dirty, and the door and ceiling are rusty, he adds.

"The window of my control room is covered with dust. I can't even see clearly outside, making my job extra difficult and dangerous," he says.

The long working hours have also affected his family life and he barely gets to see his three-year-old boy. "When I get home, he is at school, and when he comes home, I am at work," he says. "He calls me daddy, but we actually do not know much about each other."

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