Hong-Kong-listed Yue Yuen Industrial Holdings Ltd <0551.HK> — a $5.6
billion manufacturer of footwear for Nike Inc <NKE.N>, Adidas <ADSGn.DE>
and other international leisure brands — said that more than 80
percent of the workers at its Dongguan factory returned to work.
Three workers at the vast complex in southern China had on Friday
estimated that more than half, maybe as many as 70 percent, of the
40,000-strong workforce had gone back to work.
Labor activists say the strike has been one of China's biggest since
market reforms started in the late 1970s, prompting German
sportswear firm Adidas to shift some orders to suppliers elsewhere
in China. A spokesman for rival Nike said the company was watching
the situation closely.
In its statement late on Friday, Yue Yuen estimated the direct cost
of the strike at around $27 million.
Workers went on strike on April 14 to protest against what they said
were chronically low company contributions to state-mandated social
insurance and housing provident fund accounts.
On Friday, a spokesman for the Ministry of Labour and Social
Security told reporters in Beijing that Yue Yuen had underpaid its
social welfare contributions. "The related department has already
ordered the factory to rectify the wrongdoings before April 25," Li
Zhong said. "Our ministry will continue to keep a close watch on the
progress of the issue."
Several workers in Dongguan reached by telephone said they had
returned to work after Yue Yuen offered to back-fill social
insurance and housing payments. But workers would be watching
carefully for concrete action, said one female, surnamed Liu.
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The company had created some pressure for workers to return to their
factories by removing electronic card readers used to clock in and
out, workers said. "They're making us sign a timesheet once an hour
to make sure we're in the factory," said one. Some were signing in,
but not working.
Yue Yuen executive director George Liu denied the company had
violated any laws or regulations with the insurance payments it had
been making. "There is no wrongdoing. We have always been in
compliance with the relevant government laws and regulations," he
The strike has made officials nervous, however, and labor activist
Zhang Zhiru and a colleague, Lin Dong, were detained this week by
state security agents. Zhang was freed after two days, but Lin was
still in detention, Zhang told Reuters.
Zhang, who has been assisting workers for a decade, had been working
with other activists and lawyers to help Yue Yuen workers organize
and press their demands.
(Additional reporting by Sui-Lee Wee in Beijing;
editing by Ian Geoghegan)
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