Dockers at HK port operated by billionaire agree to 9.8pct pay rise

HONG KONG (REUTERS) - About 500 striking workers at a port operated by billionaire Li Ka-shing agreed to a 9.8 per cent pay rise on Monday, ending one of the city's longest-running industrial disputes that has diverted traffic from the world's No. 3 container port.

The workers, on strike for more than a month, agreed to the wage increase after contractors for Mr Li's port operator Hongkong International Terminals (HIT) issued the terms of the deal in writing, as requested by the dockers.

They had initially demanded a rise of about 20 per cent and improved working conditions, such as more toilet facilities, which have also been granted.

The workers took their protest from the port to Mr Li's headquarters in the heart of the Asian financial centre three weeks ago, setting up a camp and waving pictures of the tycoon defaced with devil's horns.

Dubbed Superman by local media for his deal-making savvy, Mr Li had been criticised for failing to help resolve the strike after HIT said it should be worked out by contractors who supply labourers to the berths it operates.

The images of Mr Li as a devil, on his own doorstep, were humiliating for the city's richest man and illustrated growing frustration over Hong Kong's widening wealth gap.

The strike was costing around HK$5 million (S$793,600) per day at the start of the industrial action, according to HIT.

Hong Kong, which serves as the gateway to mainland China's manufacturing heartland, is the world's third-largest container port, after Shanghai and Singapore.