China and Vietnam: Thousands of clothing workers strike

In Shangdong, China, more than 1,000 textile workers were on strike last week, while in Vietnam around 4,000 workers at a shoe factory struck for a wage increase.

Submitted by Steven. on February 21, 2006

China Labour Bulletin and VietNamNet reported:

More than 1,000 workers at the cloth-weaving section of the Heze Cotton Textile Factory, formerly a state-owned enterprise, in Shandong have been staging a strike against low pay since 10 February.

Most of the striking workers were women workers and the workers' actions had affected the production of the company's other factories, a factory staff told China Labour Bulletin.

The factory said the strike broke out because of low pay. Each worker was only given a little more than 300 yuan each month. A message posted on a mainland-based online forum said that the workers in the Heze factory could only earn less than 5,000 yuan per year, but each of the eight factory managers earned 500,000 yuan a year.

An official of the Heze City Government said he did not know about the strike, saying that such affairs should be handled by the local Economic and Trading Committee. An official of the local Economic and Trading Committee first said the strike was only a "rumour", but later admitted that he only heard about that from other people and he could not confirm if there was a strike at the factory or not.

A security supervisor at the factory confirmed that the workers had staged the strike for five days and he said the official trade union in the factory and the city-level trade union did not intervene in helping the workers.

The security staff said the factory leaders had issued a form for the workers to fill out, asking them to sign it to agree to go back to work. If they did not sign it within 15 days, they would be considered resigning voluntarily.

Hai Phong: 4,000 workers on strike

VietNamNet – Some 4,000 workers of Hai Phong’s Gold Star Company strike on February 17 asking for salary increases.

According to workers, the minimum wage paid by Gold Star is too low, at VND400,000/month, and they have asked the company to increase it to VND710,000/month in accordance with Decree 03 on minimum wage in foreign-invested firms.

Pham Van Oanh, Head of Hai Phong Labour Federation’s Policy Department said that workers mistakenly believe that Gold Star is a foreign-invested company, when in fact, it is a 100% locally invested company which produces footwear for Taiwanese partners. This is the first strike in this port city in the past two years.

On February 19 the company agreed to increase minimum wage by VND80,000/worker/month, but 4,000 workers say that this level is still too low and continued striking. At present, only 2,000 are working at the factory.

“They asked us to explain why two companies located next to each other pay such dramatically different wages (VND710,000/month at one, while Gold Star pays only VND400,000). It is a really difficult for us to convene when the gap is so wide,” Mr. Oanh said.

This is also a problem for grassroots trade unions. Previously, thousands of workers at domestic companies in southern HCM City, Binh Duong, and Dong Nai asked for increases to their minimum salary in line with those paid by foreign-invested companies. However, this is unfeasible.

According to Pham Minh Huan, Head of the Ministry of Social, War Invalids and Social Affairs’ Salary Department, domestic companies are unable to catch up with minimum salary increases at foreign-invested firms. However, to ensure their interests, employees must negotiate for higher salaries because the minimum salary is currently too low.