Outsiders normally think that SuperTerminal 1 is a man’s world: looking down at the terminal from high above, we see equipment like loaders and tractors running around the vast apron; while, inside the warehouse, we see teams of cargo handlers building up and breaking down pallets, moving cargo of different sizes… all the jobs look like male tasks. However, that is not always the case. We also have lots of extremely competent and confident female employees here at Hactl, whose performance is in no sense less professional than that of their male colleagues. In this issue, we look into the working lives of three very capable and dedicated female staff working at Hactl.
Lau Sau Fong (Fong) has short hair, and a deep tan. She speaks animatedly and enjoys her work a lot. “I am very ‘mischievous’, just like a boy. People say girls are not cut out for driving, but I don’t agree! I enjoy driving very much, and can handle a manual or automatic car.”
Fong’s job title is Equipment Operator. Her everyday task is to drive a tractor to move export cargo to the staging areas, and import cargo into the terminal for break-down and further handling.
Tractor drivers are mostly men, “but nowadays female tractor drivers are becoming more common. In our tractor driver team, we have around 10 females.” Fong has a cheerful and bubbly personality, and is very easy going. She first joined Hactl as a “Customer Service Partner”, “but I was very curious, and I don’t mind operating machines. Seeing tractor drivers working on the apron, I thought that would be very challenging, so I gave it a try.” When Hactl had vacancies for tractor drivers, she eagerly applied: “The tractor drivers here never looked down on me. I still remember many of my colleagues encouraging me. They often said to me ‘Come on sis, you should just go try it, you can do it!’” Now, Fong has become a very capable tractor driver.
Although women make up a “minority” in the tractor driver team, Fong never thinks that women are incapable of the job. And she doesn’t think that women should receive any special privileges. Tractor drivers always work in pairs, with one mainly responsible for driving, and the other checking the position of the cargo when loading and unloading, ensuring it is loaded safely onto the dollies. As the team works shifts, sometimes Fong is assigned to work with another female colleague. “At first, seeing two girls assigned in the same pair, people were worried whether we could handle the job. But then they saw us working very efficiently, and that we were no less capable after all,” says Fong: “Everybody treats me very well. Sometimes when it rains, male colleagues will ask ‘You ok sis? Let me drive this lot. You might catch cold in the rain.’ And I am all very grateful.” Fong has made many friends among her colleagues. “We often go to dai pai dong together after work, to have dinner. We are like a family.”
Fong enjoys her everyday work, and enjoys talking about her work with her two sons. “In the beginning, the kids would ask ‘Mom, why does your skin get more and more tanned?’” When they found out it was because Fong was a tractor driver, they were very proud. “The kids also thought this should be a man’s job, but when they found out mommy works at the airport driving a tractor, they think it’s amazing and enjoy telling their classmates.”
Wong Ying Yuet has worked at Hactl since the Kai Tak era. She speaks softly, and not too fast, or too slow. And she likes reading books or newspapers in her free time. However, her job is anything but “soft and gentle”- she is a Battery Handler for the forklifts in the terminal.
Ying Yuet’s job is very important. She is the source of “power” in the terminal. Most of the charging of the forklift batteries in the terminal is handled by Ying Yuet. “Now we have changed to using the new fast-charging batteries and forklift drivers can charge them with the fast charger in the terminal in their free time. We have to conduct an equalizing charging for the new batteries every week. In the past when using the old batteries, we had to keep charging the batteries for all three shifts each day and replace the batteries every shift.” Although the battery charging process is less complicated, the forklift batteries are nothing like those used for household appliances which can be replaced easily. The batteries are huge, and have to be removed and installed using a mechanical arm. “When a forklift needs to be re-charged, it has to be driven to our Battery Room. After the battery is removed from the forklift, we have to clean it and plug in the cable for charging. After finishing the process, we have to properly install the battery back onto the forklift.”
Apart from charging batteries, sometimes Ying Yuet even has to drive a forklift, “Sometimes, if the forklift hasn’t arrived at the Battery Room, I have to confirm its location and ask a forklift driver to drive it to the Battery Room. During the time when the shift is changing and the forklift is idle, I will sometimes drive the forklift back to the Battery Room myself.”
How does such a gentle and soft lady like Ying Yuet work with the masculine forklift drivers? “At first I was not very used to it. Everybody speaks very directly, and it is quite different from how I behave.” But after a while, Ying Yuet found out her forklift driving colleagues may be direct and masculine, but it’s just the way the team communicates. “Sometimes when the drivers see me there, they deliberately talk more softly. But actually, after all these years I am totally used to the way everybody works, and we get along very well,” says Ying Yuet with a smile. As long as you have your professionalism, no matter whether you are quiet or out-going, you can handle any jobs in the terminal.
Mu Chunhui (Chun) is another bright and easy-going heroine in the terminal. Chun has worked at Hactl for more than 10 years, and is experienced in all her duties in the warehouse. Internally she handles cargo in the warehouse, while externally she helps with cargo delivery and cargo collection. Chun says confidently “I think it’s fine, not too hard!”
Chun was a salesperson in the fashion industry, but later on she joined Hactl as a cargo handler and obtained a Forklift License: “Every time an aircraft has unloaded its cargo, we have to carefully break-down the cargo and put it into the storage system.” There is cargo coming in and out all day, Chun says, and sometimes it’s a race against the clock, “When cargo arrives at the warehouse, we will divide the work and handle it immediately. Before the holiday periods, we are very busy the whole day. For example, in December before Christmas, that is the peak for the whole year!” International online shopping has become popular in recent years, and Chun says many of her friends outside Hactl ask her if she has handled things they have ordered, “Of course I don’t know who the cargo belongs to. But for one thing I am sure of, is that over all these years I have handled a lot of shipments ordered by Hong Kong people.” Chun says proudly.
Chun says 80% of her handling colleagues are male. Her work involves physical cargo handling, so how does she do it? “Actually, normally it’s fine, because I always have a partner to work with me every time I build-up or breakdown cargo. When it comes to a large piece of cargo, sometimes it needs men with more strength to help. But helping each other is the normal way among our team.” Chun adds with a smile. “People might think that the male cargo handlers are all very masculine and tough. In fact, it is not necessarily the case. The colleagues I know are all quite gentle and very helpful, so we get along very well.”