HONG KONG, China — Yue Yuen Industrial Holdings Ltd., a shoe supplier for Nike Inc. and Adidas AG, said more than 1,000 factory workers in a southern Chinese city went on strike today, demanding better social security payments.
The employees took to the streets of Dongguan before being stopped by local police, according to a statement from the Hong Kong-listed company. Yue Yuen said 600 workers staged a demonstration yesterday, though Hong Kong-based China Labor Bulletin put the number at more than 10,000 and New York-based China Labor Watch at “tens of thousands.”
Yue Yuen is the latest foreign company to have seen its China operations idled by strikes. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and International Business Machines Corp. have also become targets of employee activism in China this year, thanks to a shrinking labor force and as more workers become aware of their rights and bargaining power. Labor disputes led to 31 percent of the 871 mass protests from January 2000 to end-September 2013, state- owned China Daily said this month, citing a government report.
“It’s a determination not to accept terms and conditions being dictated to them by their employer, they want to have negotiations, they want to have a voice,” Geoffrey Crothall, a spokesman for China Labor Bulletin, said in an interview today.
The effect of the strike is “difficult to quantify” and Yue Yuen will take the necessary measures to mitigate any impact, the manufacturer said. China Labor Bulletin said the workers protested Yue Yuen’s failure to pay its employees their full social security and housing fund contributions.
Yue Yuen, founded in 1988 by Taiwanese owners and with factories in China, Vietnam and Indonesia, said its social security payments are in compliance with the law and that it’s negotiating with the workers. The company produces Nike and Adidas shoes in the affected Dongguan location where it has more than 40,000 workers, it said.
This month, Wal-Mart said it paid workers of a store slated to close in the southern Chinese city of Changde “a bit more” generously than legally required severance packages. Reuters reported on April 7 that several dozen workers protested.
Phone calls to Nike weren’t answered outside office hours. An Adidas representative didn’t return a call seeking comment.
By Liza Lin; Editors: Stephanie Wong, Paul Jarvis