Workers' exodus hits textile industry

AN increasing number of silk garment workers in Zhejiang have voted with their feet and left their factories to seek employment in other provinces.

The exodus, reported by the semi-official Hongkong China News Agency (HKCNA) yesterday, was said to be the most serious problem confronting the backbone industry of the eastern province.

The situation is expected to exacerbate the already sorry state of China's textile industry and it coincides with an ambitious scheme by the government to significantly reduce its textile workforce to raise efficiency.

According to a report last week, at least one-third of the country's 7.5 million textile workers are considered ''redundant''.

That report quoted ''relevant sources'' saying that the redundant workers could be absorbed by the newly-developed tertiary industry, or the services sector.

While the HKCNA report yesterday did not provide any figures, it said the outflow of silk garment workers had already put ''a serious strain'' on the industry in Huizhou - the origin of Zhejiang's silk farming.

Low income, lack of opportunities and a ''dependence on central planning by the government'' were cited as main factors behind the latest exodus of silk garment workers, the report said.

Workers were quoted in the report as saying that instead of blindly following instructions from the authorities, they should ''develop their potential by following the rules of the market''.

''Production force is a marketable commodity now . . . we work for whoever pays the highest wages,'' they told the reporters.

In order to plug the exodus, rules requiring the workers to ''back-pay'' their employers have been introduced by silk factories.

Such ''back-pay'', or so-called ''training fees'', ranged from 2,500 yuan (HK$3,347) to 5,000 yuan per person - about a year's salary for an average worker.

''But the situation has remained as serious. In one enterprise in Huizhou, more than 10 workers have submitted their letters of resignation in one day,'' it said.