Hactl welcomes pledge to ease Hong Kong’s labour shortage

Hong Kong Air Cargo Terminals (Hactl) has welcomed the political commitment to address Hong Kong’s chronic labour shortage, which has pushed up costs for the airfreight industry.
In his policy address earlier this month, the chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR), C Y Leung, said he would support the development of a third runway at Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA).
The SAR government also plans to develop the East Lantau Metropolis and Tung Chung New Town Extension on the back of the completion of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge and other transport links.
Mark Whitehead, Hactl chief executive, said that the pledge to kickstart the Tung Chung housing programme may go some way to easing the labour shortage problems at Chek Lap Kok.
“Commuting to and from the airport island and central areas currently takes over an hour each way, adding substantially to the working day.
“This detracts from the appeal of airport jobs of all types. The original plan for Tung Chung was to build a city for 250,000 inhabitants, but the current capacity is nearer 90,000. So more local housing in Tung Chung will help; but this alone will not fully resolve the situation.”
Several key industries in Hong Kong – such as airport-based industries, construction and restaurants – are competing for the same manual and blue-collar labour pool, said Whitehead.
The situation is “exacerbated” by several major infrastructure projects that have created thousands of additional jobs that must somehow be filled.
Whitehead added: “The new Tuen Mun bridge, which links a populated district with the airport, will also give access to a new potential labour pool only 20 minutes away; this will also help the problem when it opens in 2018. The Hong Kong Zhuhai-Macau bridge, due to open in 2017, will also assist the free flow of labour by slashing journey times.
“In the short term, Hong Kong remains a victim of its own success, and there is no immediate answer for major employers like Hactl – other than to maintain our intensive staff retention programme – a blend of fair remuneration, strong focus on staff welfare, career progression opportunities and sponsored education, training and development.”
He continued: “This policy is costly, but has successfully minimised staff churn, so that Hactl is the only handler not forced to rely upon large numbers of temporary agency workers. This has helped us to preserve the high service standards our customers have come to expect.”
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