Hundreds strike at Singapore-owned plant in China

SHANGHAI Fri Dec 2, 2011 5:43am EST

Two men watch as workers on strike block the entrance gate of Hi-P International factory in Shanghai December 2, 2011.  REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Two men watch as workers on strike block the entrance gate of Hi-P International factory in Shanghai December 2, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria

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SHANGHAI (Reuters) - More than 200 workers at a Singapore-owned electronics plant in Shanghai remained on strike for a third day on Friday to denounce what they said was a management plan for mass layoffs, the latest outbreak of labor unrest in China.

Blue-jacketed workers, chanting slogans and holding aloft banners demanding management explanations, blocked the entrance to the factory owned by Hi-P International in the Pudong district of China's commercial hub.

Hi-P is an electronics contract manufacturer whose customers include Apple and BlackBerry maker Research in Motion, according to media and analyst reports.

The workers first stopped work on Wednesday, denouncing what they said was a plan to relocate the plant to a Shanghai suburb and demanding compensation for layoffs. Workers said the company planned to hire new staff.

Hi-P International denied that it had fired workers.

"The company is currently in discussion with the workers with the support of the authorities and the labor union," the company said in a statement to the Singapore stock exchange. "The matter is expected to be resolved shortly."

It added that "there is no material impact" to the company's production due to the strike.

Strikers told Reuters they had refused to sign agreements stipulating that their jobs would be terminated by the end of the year without compensation. They said the plant employed more than 1,500 workers, most of them women.

Dozens of police officers kept watch on the workers. Workers said police had beaten up some protesters on Wednesday. Calls to Shanghai's public security bureau went unanswered.

"Give me justice!" workers shouted. Banners held up by strikers included: "We want an explanation, we want the truth."

"They are moving the factory but I don't want to go there," said one worker surnamed Zhang, 28. "Now they just don't want to compensate us. They do not want to even give us a single cent."

Workers planned to press their stoppage through the weekend.

Hi-P International's shares had fallen 2.5 percent on Friday in late afternoon trade but recovered to close down 0.8 percent -- compared to a 0.4 percent rise for Singapore's Straits Times benchmark index.

Strikes this year have pitted workers frustrated about rising costs against companies struggling with an external economic slowdown. The ruling Communist Party fears public discontent could erode its authority and alarm investors.

In factory towns across the export powerhouse in the Pearl River Delta, strikes have been triggered by a cycle of slowing orders from the West and pressure for pay rises.

Thousands of striking workers have crippled production for Western brands at shoe and bra factories in Guangdong province and watch, sport and electronics plants to the south and west.

Stoppages disrupted production last year for automakers, including Toyota and Honda, exposing the demands of 150 million migrant workers. Many provinces boosted minimum wages.

But businesses struggling with razor-thin profit margins, may have difficulty increasing pay this year.

(Additional reporting by Charmian Kok and Kevin Lim in Singapore and Melanie Lee in Shanghai, Writing by Sui-Lee Wee; Editing by Ken Wills and Ron Popeski)

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