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Chinese sneaker factory workers go on strike

  • Article by: KELVIN CHAN
  • Associated Press
  • April 15, 2014 - 5:20 AM

HONG KONG — Workers at a Chinese factory owned by Yue Yuen, the world's largest maker of athletic footwear for brands such as Nike and Adidas, are striking in a dispute over benefits.

A worker said more than 10,000 employees at Yue Yuen Industrial's plant in the southern province of Guangdong joined the strike on Tuesday.

The number could not be independently verified. A company spokesman could not be reached for comment.

The Taiwanese owned company, which employs about 60,000 workers in the Dongguan district, also makes shoes for Reebok, Asics, New Balance, Timberland and other brands at factories in China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Mexico and the United States. The company made 323.3 million pairs of shoes in the 15 months to December 2012.

It's the latest labor dispute to flare up in southern China's Pearl River Delta manufacturing heartland, where factories face a growing shortage of migrant workers.

The worker, Cui Tiangang, and labor groups said the workers are upset because the company failed to pay full social security and housing fund contributions. The strike started on April 5 and resumed Monday when the demands were not met, according to China Labor Watch.

Cui, a 31-year-old who cuts and glues rubber soles, said only two to three of the 10 plants in the Yue Yuen factory complex were operating because of the strike.

Pictures taken by workers showed big crowds of employees rallying in the factory complex and marching on the streets, waving banners that said, "Pay back our social insurance, pay back our housing fund." Other photos showed police and auxiliary officers equipped with helmets and riots shields.

Cui said 300 to 400 police officers with 20 to 30 police dogs gathered in front of the gates of his factory dorm.

He said he joined the strike because after injuring himself on the job he discovered the company had skimped on workplace insurance coverage.

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Researcher Fu Ting in Shanghai contributed to this report.

© 2014 Star Tribune