Workers 'close to striking a deal'

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 10 June, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 June, 2010, 12:00am

Striking workers at a rubber plant just outside Shanghai where protesters clashed with police on Monday say they have made a breakthrough in negotiations and expect to resume work by next week.

'There was a big change in the company's attitude towards us today. We have made a lot of headway on several issues, though some of the key points are still being discussed,' said one activist worker, who asked not to be named.

'The management is still refusing to pay our social insurance, and that is a sticking point. We are not going to give any ground on that, but I think they will give in soon.'

Staff at the Taiwanese-owned KOK International plant in Kunshan , Jiangsu , stopped working on Friday over management's attempts to impose new employment contracts that breached the mainland's labour law. The contracts, which were to be backdated to February, allegedly dictated that staff work mandatory 12-hour shifts without overtime pay.

Staff also complained of having to operate factory machinery in high temperatures and amid toxic fumes without compensation. They also claimed their pay was being docked if they missed shifts due to work-related injuries, which were common.

'The company won't pay for protective clothing and expects us to buy it with our wages,' said one worker.

KOK has refused to respond to the South China Morning Post's repeated requests for an interview.

There was a violent confrontation between several hundred workers and riot police outside the factory on Monday morning after the protest had spilled out onto the main road in front of the plant.

Witnesses said up to 50 strikers were injured in the incident, and about 30 were detained by police. A local government spokesman declined to confirm or deny the accusations of police brutality.

Workers said there were no fresh clashes at the plant yesterday, but that police were on duty outside the gates. 'They wouldn't let us out of the compound at lunchtime,' one said. 'We had to stay in the building during our break, but we were free to leave at the end of the shift.'