| SHANGHAI/HONG KONG, April 25
SHANGHAI/HONG KONG, April 25 Many of the
thousands of shoe factory workers who have staged one of China's
biggest strikes over the past two weeks have returned to work
after the company agreed to meet some of their core demands,
workers and a company official said on Friday.
Three workers at the vast Yue Yuen Industrial Holdings Ltd
complex in the southern city of Dongguan estimated
that more than half, maybe as many as 70 percent, of the
40,000-strong workforce had gone back to work by Friday.
"Most are back at work now," worker Ren Zongjie told Reuters
by telephone. Another worker put the number at closer to 20
Labour activists say the strike has been one of China's
biggest since market reforms started in the late 1970s,
prompting German sportswear firm Adidas AG to shift
some orders to suppliers elsewhere in China. A
spokesman for rival Nike Inc, which also sources
footwear from the facility, said the company was watching the
"As of today, we say a majority of the workers are back to
work... Overall, production lines in the factories are generally
back to work," said George Liu, executive director at Yue Yuen.
"For those groups still protesting, we are trying our best to
communicate with them."
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
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.
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's 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 told Reuters.
The strike has made officials nervous, however, and labour
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
Zhang, who has been assisting workers for a decade, had been
working with other activists and lawyers to help Yue Yuen
workers organise and press their demands. He visited the
Dongguan site on Monday after an attempt last week was thwarted
by security agents.
(Editing by Ian Geoghegan)