Strikers dragged off as police and bosses get tough

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 24 June, 2011, 12:00am


More than six strikers at a handbag factory in Guangzhou were taken away yesterday after staff were warned they would be sacked if they were not back at work that afternoon.

Management issued the warning on day four of the strike and as police came out in force, taking position outside the Simone factory in Hualong town's Meishan village, in Panyu district.

A scuffle broke out shortly after 1pm as officers dispersed a crowd of strikers in a nearby park.

A 20-year-old woman from Chongqing was grabbed by the neck, roughed up and dragged away by a few men after telling one officer to stop taking photographs of her.

Her 18-year-old friend, also from Chongqing, said they were ready to compromise but were shocked by yesterday's violence.

'They are thugs, photographing us, beating us anyway they please,' she said, sobbing. 'My friend is a very frail girl, how can she take that brutality by so many men?' A young man was chased by several officers through the crowd and eventually tackled to the ground before he, too, was dragged away.

Simone management handed out notices to workers saying that those who returned to work yesterday afternoon would be treated the same as those who had kept working during the strike. However, those who did not would be deemed to have ended their employment contracts.

Workers at the factory, which makes handbags for brands such as Michael Kors, DKNY, Burberry, Kate Spade and Coach, said about half of the 4,000-plus workforce clocked into work yesterday morning, with about 900 remaining on strike.

Workers are paid 1,100 yuan (HK$1,324) a month, the legal minimum wage set for Guangzhou's satellite cities, including Panyu.

However, a 19-year-old Simone worker in Panyu said the company should at least pay them the same as other factories nearby. 'Many nearby workers are getting 1,200 yuan a month,' he said.

A 29-year-old man from Guizhou who had a thumb crushed by machinery two months ago said his medical bills had not yet been paid by the company. 'I took the receipts to my supervisor and he asked me whether I did that to myself deliberately. I told him, 'How about you try it for yourself?'' he said.

A statement issued by the Hualong town government said: 'We have taken some of the troublemakers in the crowd away from the scene for questioning.'

Simone spokesman Trevor Lee said while it did not approve of the strike, it regarded it as 'a chance to improve the working environment and communications with workers'.

He expected all staff would return to work today.