It has emerged that police in the Chinese city of Dongguan in Guangdong province are using brutal force against peaceful striking factory workers that manufactures shoes for Nike, Kenneth Cole, Timberland and other top-line bands.
It is said that more than 5,000 workers of Stella Shoe Co. walked out this week, demanding that the company pay for their housing and improved conditions in the factories.
Housing allowances range from 5 percent to 20 percent of an employee’s average monthly wage in China. The minimum wage in Dongguan is 1,310 Yuan (about $209) a month. Last year, Yue Yuen Holdings was ordered by the Chinese government to pay tens of millions of dollars in unpaid housing and social insurance contributions to 48,000 employees of its shoe manufacturing business in Dongguan.
The strike action has been going on for close to two weeks now. Police stepped in to stop the strike this week. It is unclear why the police intervened to compel the striking working worker to go back to work when their demands have not been met.
Photos posted on Social Media by workers at the scene of the clash showed hundreds of workers gathered outside Stella Footwear’s premises with dozens of police officers, many equipped with riot gear.
Workers and activists say some employees were injured by police as officers attempted to quell the strike in a brutal manner. One witness who spoke to True Activist without revealing his true identity, only going by Pansuwei0522 to protect his identity, said that riot police and dogs were brought in to suppress the striking workers.
“On the 10th of March, the local government dispatched a large number of police dogs brought to the facility to pressure workers to return to their jobs,” the unhappy worker said.
Another also said ‘For years, they haven’t been properly paying into our social-insurance and housing-benefit funds, and we want them to give us what is rightfully ours.’
The New York-based human rights organization-China Labor Watch confirmed that some of the workers were attacked by dogs and were later sent to hospital for treatment. Some workers too were hit by moving cars as police chased them out of the striking area. Those who got injured apparently also had to pay for their hospital bills themselves.
Stella International operates several factories in China including Stella Footwear, which was set up in 2003 to produce women’s casual and fashion footwear. The company employs more than 10,000 people in China.
Worker benefits have become a sensitive issue in China. China’s labor force is aging and many workers are demanding better access to medical care and social services. Other workplace disputes in China in recent months have focused on similar issues, including many in Guangdong, a major manufacturing hub that produces more than a quarter of the country’s exports.
This has compelled the Chinese Premier-Li Keqiang to say, in an annual policy speech last week, that the government plans to “improve the mechanisms for supervising the handling of labor issues and disputes, and ensure the law fully functions as the protector of the rights and interests of anyone in employment.”