Business

China shoe factories strike grows

More than 30,000 workers were on strike Thursday, a labor action that threatens to crimp production.
Reuters
More than 30,000 workers were on strike Thursday, a labor action that threatens to crimp production.

BEIJING — A strike at the Chinese factories of the world’s biggest maker of athletic shoes snowballed Thursday to about 30,000 workers, a labor group said, making it one of the largest work stoppages to date at a private business in China.

Workers in Dongguan want Taiwanese-owned Yu Yuen Industrial (Holdings) Ltd., which makes shoes for New Balance, Reebok, Asics, Timberland, Nike, and Adidas, to make social security contributions required by Chinese law and meet other demands. They’ve been striking in increasing numbers in on-and-off stoppages since April 5.

The strike at a 10-factory complex is the latest in a wave of unrest at plants in China, where labor shortages and a rising cost of living have made workers increasingly assertive.

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The walkout threatens to crimp the contract manufacturer’s production. More than 30,000 workers were on strike Thursday. They are also demanding that the company honor its commitments to provide free accommodation and meals, the US-based China Labor Watch said.

The strike also reflects a growing focus on retirement benefits among Chinese migrant workers, who previously were content to receive fewer benefits in return for higher paychecks, said Wang Jiangsong, a scholar at the China Institute of Industrial Relations. Aging workers “are seeing they have little income when they retire.”