Over 6,000 shoe factory workers in China’s Guangdong Province took to the streets on the morning of Nov. 17 to protest a significant reduction in their expected bonuses. Nearby traffic was snarled and riot police were deployed. Several protestors were beaten by police and rushed to the hospital.
The strike at the Yucheng Shoe Factory in Dongguan City was triggered by a notice posted by the factory that bonuses to all middle managers and employees would be canceled due to decreasing profits. The notice angered employees, but higher management refused to negotiate.
A worker named Liu said when the striking workers came within 600 yards of the municipal government buildings they were blocked by police carrying riot shields. The police dashed toward the protestors to separate them from one another. “Five or six policemen fought against a single worker, beating or kicking him. The violence left some workers bleeding with their clothing torn to pieces. They [the police] are cold-blooded animals,” he said.
A mid-level manager, who didn’t give his name, said that national riot police, local police, security agents and even a troop of about 1,000 soldiers had been deployed.
Another worker, who also withheld his name, said the workers earn a basic monthly salary of $175, which, if there is no overtime or bonus, almost comes to nothing after deductions for expenses. He said they used to work eight regular hours and two hours overtime during the week, and eight hours of overtime on Saturdays. For this, they were paid $346 each month, and they could make ends meet.
Yucheng Shoe Factory is a branch of the Pou Chen Group, which states on its website to be one of the biggest shoemaking groups in the world and a manufacturer for Nike, Adidas, Reebok, and New Balance.
The factory was contacted to verify the workers’ claims. An office staff would only say the employees were unhappy about a new company regulation and that negotiations were ongoing.
Sources say that Yucheng Shoe Factory posted a notice on Oct. 27 announcing layoffs of 18 mid-level managers who had worked there for over 10 years. The reason stated was a dramatic decrease in orders and cutbacks in production. But the fired managers say the layoffs are not based on legal procedure, nor were they paid sufficient severance compensation. They have been protesting for days and have filed a lawsuit against the factory.