Strike at China shoe factory highlights newfound labour activism
Tens of thousands of workers remained off the job Tuesday after they rejected the company's latest offer
BEIJING—Striking workers at a Chinese factory owned by the world’s largest maker of athletic shoes have rejected management’s latest offer in an ongoing labour dispute that is crimping production for brands such as Nike and Adidas.
The on-off work stoppage at Yue Yuen Industrial (Holdings) Ltd.’s massive factory complex in southern China, which employs more than 40,000 workers, has stretched into a second week as both sides have failed to reach an agreement.
The dispute erupted over underpayments for social security and housing required by Chinese law. It has become one of the largest strikes in China’s private sector, where low-cost manufacturers are facing increasing labour activism amid a shortage of migrant workers that is pushing up labour costs.
Tens of thousands of workers remained off the job Tuesday, according to workers and labour groups, after they rejected the company’s latest offer, which included making up back payments for social security and housing, full contributions for those benefits starting May 1 and a $37 monthly cost of living allowance.
“We’ll pay what is in the regulations, there should not be any concern on that,” Yue Yuen spokesman George Liu said.
The workers at the Dongguan plant are demanding a 30 per cent pay raise and a better-worded commitment to future contributions. They also say it’s unfair that workers would be required to make up their share of missed contributions from the past. And they want their own representatives to negotiate with management.
Greg Rossiter, of Nike Corporate Communications in Beaverton, Ore., said in an email that Nike was “aware and concerned by the events at the Yue Yuen factory” and was monitoring the talks between the management and workers.
The two sides in the Dongguan strike appeared far from agreement.
Liu added that the dispute was having an impact on production and the company has made contingency plans to shift work to its other factories in Vietnam and Indonesia.
He said workers are worried about losing their jobs but are unwilling to accept the Yue Yuen offer.
Chan reported from Hong Kong, and Associated Press researcher Fu Ting in Shanghai contributed to this report.