Over 4,000 workers on strike in S.China: report

HONG KONG — Thousands of workers at a South Korean-owned factory in China’s industrial heartland have gone on strike to demand better pay and working conditions, according to a report.

More than 4,000 workers at the Simone handbag factory in Guangzhou — an area struck by migrant unrest in recent weeks — are protesting against what they say is a “harsh working environment”, the South China Morning Post said on Thursday.

People working at the plant — which produces handbags for high-end brands such as DKNY, Burberry, Kate Spade and Coach — at the Hualong plant in Meishan village halted production on Monday, the report said.

A heavy police presence was seen outside the plant, with workers claiming that at least one woman and one man were beaten up by local security guards on Tuesday.

A photo published in the Hong Kong-based daily showed a large number of workers clad in blue uniforms in a standoff with police.

A factory operator told AFP that most of the workers had returned to their posts on Thursday. She refused to offer further details.

Officials in the local government labour bureau were not immediately available for comment when contacted by AFP.

The workers complained they were forced to stand for 12 hours daily and given toilet breaks once every four hours, according to the Post.

They also said they were banned from consuming water or using washrooms except during breaks.

“The Korean management treats us [as] less than human beings. The male managers walk into female toilets any time they please; we can’t contain our anger any more,” a 26-year-old unnamed male worker told the paper.

According to the report, workers can earn up to 1,900 yuan ($290) a month, depending on their hours.

Last year, Chinese factory workers — many at foreign-invested firms — staged a number of walkouts over pay and conditions in the so-called “workshop of the world” in Guangdong province, the capital of which is Guangzhou.

Discontent among the millions of migrant workers in the region has mounted in recent weeks.

Several hundred workers at a watch factory in Chang’an, part of the vast factory city of Dongguan close to Hong Kong, went on strike last week in protest at long working hours.

Earlier this month, riots erupted in Xintang, near Guangzhou, after rumours that police had beaten to death a street hawker from the southwestern province of Sichuan. Nineteen people were arrested.

Also in June, hundreds of migrant workers clashed with police in Chaozhou in eastern Guangdong, after one of them was wounded in a knife attack in a dispute over wages.

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