'We can't contain our anger any longer'

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 June, 2011, 12:00am


More than 4,000 workers at a Korean-owned handbag factory in Guangzhou's Panyu district spent a third day on strike yesterday, demanding better pay and more respect.

People working for Simone Limited at the Hualong plant in Meishan village halted production on Monday in protest over what they described as a 'harsh working environment' and to call for better pay in light of the surging price of goods.

A heavy police presence was seen outside the plant, with workers claiming that at least one woman and one man were beaten up by local security guards on Tuesday. A large traffic jam also developed outside the factory, and pictures were posted on microblog websites.

The factory produces international high-end handbags for designer brands such as Michael Kors, DKNY, Burberry, Kate Spade and Coach.

The company's factory in Guangzhou was opened in 1992, hiring more than 4,000 workers, with 80 per cent of them women, mostly from inland provinces.

Workers complained they had to stand for 12 hours a day and were given only one toilet break every four hours.

Eight workers contacted by the South China Morning Post said their average base monthly salary was 1,100 yuan (HK$1,320) for working eight hours a day, but those who worked 12 hours a day could earn up to 1,900 yuan. They are demanding a base salary raise to 1,300 yuan.

'From our salary, the company also deducts 200 yuan for social security and 100 yuan every month for food if we dine inside the plant. The food is like trash there and unfit for human consumption, but we have no choice,' said a 26-year-old worker from Hunan , who refused to be identified for fear of reprisals. He said the rice served was sometimes black.

Workers also said they were banned from consuming water or using washrooms except during breaks. Phone calls made to the factory were answered by staff members who confirmed that the strike had started on Monday and production had been halted since. But they refused to put the manager on the line.

A 26-year-old male worker from Chongqing said: 'The Korean management treats us [as] less than human beings. The male managers walk into female toilets any time they please; we can't contain our anger any more.'

'We are always being scolded randomly by the Korean managers,' he said. 'They have even confiscated our mobile phones before.'

Last week, about 2,000 workers at a Japanese-owned Citizen Watch plant in the province's Changan town, Dongguan , went on strike to protest against extended working hours. They were demanding reasonable compensation.

Dissidents seeking a so-called 'jasmine revolution' on the mainland, in imitation of pro-democracy uprisings in the Arab world, recently called on migrant workers to strike from June 15-25 for better working condition and pay, and the right to have independent unions.