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Chinese police break up shoe factory strike

Workers hauled away from 40,000-strong protest at Yue Yuen Industrial site

Chinese police hauled away dozens of workers yesterday to break up a march by tens of thousands of striking labourers at Yue Yuen Industrial, the world’s largest shoe manufacturing contractor.

More than 40,000 people went on strike this week against the firm, bringing production to a halt at the factory, which makes shoes for world brands including Nike and Adidas.

They’ve been striking in increasing numbers in on-off stoppages since April 5 and the walkouts have been steadily growing.

About 1,000 more workers walked out and marched in protest yesterday after their union rejected a company proposal.

The Guangdong Federation of Trade Unions urged the workers to act rationally, but said that it was “taking a clear-cut stand” that their rights must be protected.

The federation said that it had instructed its municipal agency in the southern city of Dongguan — where the factory complex is located — to mediate in the dispute.

The workers have been striking since April 5 to demand that the Taiwanese-owned company make social security contributions as required by Chinese law and live up to its commitment to provide free accommodation and meals.

US-based China Labour Watch spokesman Li Qiang said the social insurance problem was long-standing and one which workers were no longer willing to tolerate.

“This is a costly lesson to multinationals to not ever ignore the rights of workers,” he said.

In over 400 factory probes conducted by the group over the past decade, none was found to have bought full mandatory social insurance for workers as stipulated by Chinese law.

Experts say companies in the Pearl River Delta routinely skip social security payments, blackmailing local government with the prospect of moving overseas if their costs rise in China.

Yue Yuen management had said on Thursday that the company would make the social security payments only if the workers would agree to retroactively pay more into the fund.

The workers say the company has deceived its workers and violated the rules by failing to pay and should be held accountable for the missed contributions.

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