Police and strikers clash at Shenzhen factory

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 09 June, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 June, 2007, 12:00am

Thousands of workers at a Shenzhen factory which was once the world's biggest maker of artificial trees clashed with police yesterday after they refused to call off their week-long strike.

According to a worker, police had briefly detained nearly 100 workers - most of them women - at the Bao

lishun plastics factory in Longgang district after they refused to go back to work. They were later released after questioning. At least one worker refused to obey the police order and was seen beaten by four officers. She was taken away in a police car, her colleagues said.

Factory management warned the workers yesterday morning that it would fire those who continued their industrial action. But the workers said they would not yield to the threat.

They have been on strike since May 30. The workers were not happy with the long working hours and claimed the company was trying to lay off long-term employees without offering compensation.

'They refuse to renew contracts with experienced workers and only offer short-term contracts to new recruits,' a worker said. 'We believe the company wants to get rid of us because it's been losing money. If they want to lay us off, they should pay compensation.'

The workers said the company had secretly planned to relocate the factory and management was trying to exploit a loophole in the labour laws to avoid paying severance pay.

A worker with six years' experience was entitled to about 10,000 yuan in compensation if he was laid off but he would get nothing if his contract expired, the workers said.

'Dozens of experienced workers whose contracts are about to expire have been told they will not be offered a new one. The management did not explain why,' one worker said. He said many workers' contracts would expire next month and they feared they would lose their jobs.

The week-long strike has attracted a great deal of overseas media attention. Longgang authorities tried to intervene last week but workers rejected the management's compensation offer - which was half of what they believed they were entitled to.

Baoji Artifacts, the company which owns Baolishun, refused to comment yesterday on the incident.

A statement by the Longgang government last night blamed 'a few individuals' for organising the strike and instigating the crowd against police officers. It said several police officers had been beaten by the crowd and the people responsible had been arrested.