About 200 workers protest at Chinese toy factory in pay dispute, five hurt
By William Foreman, The Associated Press
DONGGUAN, China - About 200 protesters on Wednesday stormed the gates of a toy factory in southern China that supplies U.S. toy maker Hasbro Inc., the second day of demonstrations over a pay dispute. Five workers were injured.
The demonstrations at the Kai Da factory in Dongguan came as many companies in the once-booming city are shutting down or cutting staff amid rising costs, global economic woes and government plans to relocate low-end manufacturers.
Local officials are worried about the plant closures and have endorsed the central government's multibillion-dollar stimulus plan. They have also been urging factories to avoid large layoffs to prevent social upheaval.
During Tuesday's violence, some 500 protesters flipped over a police car and trashed computers, officials and media reports said.
The protests were centred around a disagreement over severance payments to 80 migrant workers among a group of 596 who were laid off this month when their contracts expired, said a local propaganda office spokesman on Wednesday.
The spokesman, who would only give his surname, Cai, said the 80 labourers claimed they were senior employees who deserved more severance from Kai Da.
On Wednesday, the 200 people gathered in front of the Kai Da factory in Dongguan's Zhongtang township and complained about being laid off without proper compensation. In the afternoon, they surged past the factory's gates and moved into the courtyard.
"The factory's management and the local officials really look down on the workers," said one laid-off worker who would only give his surname, Qiao. He said he had not received any compensation after his contract ended Nov. 19 and was not renewed.
"They've been negotiating with us, but the negotiations are going nowhere. We think they are stalling, dragging things out," Qiao said.
Inside the factory, workers with yellow hair nets could be seen working at tables with piles of neon-coloured plastic toys. Boxes labelled "toys" were being loaded into shipping containers on trucks.
The factory manufactures toys for the Pawtucket, R.I.-based Hasbro, the toy brand that makes Star Wars, Playskool and Nerf toys, according to the Hong Kong-listed owner, Kader Holdings Co. Ltd.
Kader's executive director Ivan Ting said the company has already compensated the workers beyond what is required by Chinese labour law, but did not give a figure.
Under China's labour laws, laid off employees are entitled to one month's compensation for every year they work at a company, up to a maximum of 12 years.
The company is now letting the local government mediate with the workers, Ting added.
"Our obligations have already been discharged," Ting said in a phone interview. "We are stuck in a hard place as well."
Cai, the local propaganda official, said the 80 migrant workers mobilized other unemployed labourers and migrants from their hometowns, forming a crowd of 500 at the factory's front gate on Tuesday evening.
Another 1,000 people gathered to watch as the protesters turned over a police car, shattered headlights on police motorcycles and pushed their way through the factory gates.
Cai said the crowd broke glass, computers and other equipment in the factory's offices. Ten computers were damaged and several thousand yuan (dollars) were lost, Kader said in a statement.
Hong Kong Cable TV reported that five workers were injured and hospitalized after Tuesday's violence. Footage showed dozens of security guards in camouflage clothing standing outside the factory.
Dongguan is about a half hour train ride southeast from Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province.
Factories in Guangdong - one of China's biggest manufacturing hubs - have been hit hard by a series of factors, including rising costs for labour and raw materials as well as currency fluctuations and the ongoing global financial crisis.
Yeah, this is the caustic downside to all of our favourite toys... the horrendous working conditions and the lack of pay and labour rights that the workers have to contend with.
Considering the lack of freedom, the use of political prisoners as slaves in factories, and other atrocities like forced human organ donations, it really makes me reluctant to buy anything from Chinese sources. This includes knock-offs of the aptly-titled new Guns N Roses' album.
I really hope these factory folks "Fight The Power" and get somewhere in their battle with the Hydra-headed communist/corporate alliance... though I doubt that much will be achieved under present Orwellian circumstances.
Then again, the way things seem to be going on a global financial level, it might be us in the West who are gonna end up working in sweatshops... won't be able to afford toys at all.