Yue Yuen shoe factory workers' strike at Dongguan plants continues

Workers at plants in Dongguan in dispute with Hong Kong-listed firm over social benefits

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 April, 2014, 4:08am
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 April, 2014, 9:45am

Thousands of workers continued their strike on Wednesday at a sports shoe manufacturer in Dongguan in a dispute over welfare payments.

An estimated 40,000 workers downed tools at seven Yue Yuen factories in the city, according to some of the workers taking part in the stoppages. The company said more than 1,000 staff stopped working.

About 3,000 also took part in a protest march yesterday, the workers said.

The firm is listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange and produces footwear for international brands including Nike, Adidas and Timberland.

The strike started on Monday with workers complaining about the level of payments for pensions, medical insurance, housing allowances and injury compensation.

"There were at least 500 police guarding the road, but most police cars dispersed at about 3pm as workers left for home," said a restaurant worker who saw the protest march.

A spokesman for the company said the firm had agreed to an improved social benefits plan on Monday.

They also said the impact of the stoppages on the business had been "mild" so far.

"The terms we announced came after a very thorough internal analysis and calculation that considered all the factors, including the affordability from the factory's perspective," the spokesman said.

Lin Dong, a representative of the Chunfeng Labour Dispute Service, a labour rights NGO in Shenzhen, said he was taken away by the police on Sunday evening when he arrived in Dongguan.

He said he was questioned and released at 4am on Monday and then escorted out of the city by the police.

"We were trying to provide legal advice to workers to help protect their rights, but our efforts were blocked by the local authorities," Lin said.

One worker said about 20 staff were arrested on Monday and that some strikers who had held up banners had been beaten.

Several workers said their aim was to get the company to pay the proper amount of social welfare.

"Many of us began to find out our social insurance contribution from our employers were at least 200 yuan short every month, dating back nearly two decades," said a 40-year-old worker who did not wish to be named.

The dispute was triggered last month after a staff member who had worked at the company for 18 years alleged she did not receive her full pension.

Workers have vowed to continue their industrial action until their demands are met.

Dongguan's city government said it was looking into the industrial action, but declined to comment further.

Additional reporting by Reuters, Bloomberg


Guangzhou court convicts hospital security guards over pay protest

A court yesterday convicted 12 hospital security guards of "disturbing social order" for staging a labour protest last year, and sentenced several to light jail terms, in what was seen as a test case for labour rights on the mainland.

The guards had been part of a group of more than 100 healthcare workers embroiled in a months-long dispute with the Guangzhou Chinese Medicine University Hospital over pay and conditions.

The guards, who had been excluded from a deal that was eventually struck between the hospital and other workers, threatened to jump off the hospital building on August 19 and were detained by police.

The conviction by the district court in Guangzhou comes against a backdrop of growing labour activism on the mainland and was calibrated to send a message, said Duan Yi , a labour lawyer and counsel for one of the guards.

"They are sending a signal to society at large, which is that, as workers protect their rights, if they are even slightly extreme they could receive criminal punishment," he said.

While all 12 were found guilty, three were not sentenced. Six were jailed for eight months, which, taking account of time served, means they will be freed on Friday; the remaining three were jailed for nine months and will be free by mid-May.

"There's nothing we can do, but it makes us very uncomfortable," said He Zhengliang, the aunt of one of the defendants. "They didn't hit anyone or kill anyone but were detained for so long. It's not fair."