Shoe workers strike in the thousands

TN News

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Thousands of shoe workers went on separate wildcat strikes last week a Taiwanese-owned factory in southern Vietnam and another at a German-owned factory in the central region, demanding better pay and benefits.

As of the morning of April 8, more than 18,500 of the total of 18,799 workers at Pou Chen Vietnam Company in the southern province of Dong Nai have been on strike since March 31.

An influx of thousands of workers in front of the shoe factory backed up traffic along National Road 1 K, a thoroughfare connecting HCMC's Thu Duc District and Dong Nai Province's Bien Hoa Town, on

Monday morning. Hundreds of police were sent to the site but it took several hours to clear the gridlock.

Some demonstrators hurled shrimp paste and blood pudding on workers who were not participating in the strike, the Nguoi Lao Dong newspaper reported.

According to the Dong Nai Labor Federation, the factory workers went on strike because the company had failed to increase their salary in line with regulations. Though regulations state that wages have to be increased every year, the workers had seen no raises in 2008 and 2009, and the most recent salary increase for 2010 was just 5 percent.

The workers also said their lunches were worth only VND4,000 (U    S$0.21) each and did not contain enough nourishment to work under high pressure.

Vietnam's labor regulations require each company and its labor union work together to implement the annual salary increase plans for laborers.

Huynh Van Tinh, vice head of Dong Nai Labor Federation, said on April 5 that the company had agreed to increase salaries every year.

Pou Chen opened its factory in Dong Nai in 1994 to produce footwear for Nike, according to Pou Chen Group's website.

On April 5, nearly 1,500 workers at a factory of German shoes manufacturer Rieker in central Vietnam went on strike demanding higher pay and better working conditions, newswire VietNamNet reported.

The monthly salary of more than VND1 million ($57.8) was too low while prices were increasing, said workers at the factory in Quang Nam's Dien Nam Dien Ngoc Industrial Park, some 15 kilometers from Da Nang City.

The workers said they were not paid for days on which they showed up five minutes late, even though they had to finish the day's tasks. They also said they were not paid for days in which the company did not work due to production cuts.

Workers also complained of poor lunches, short breaks and regular food poisoning at the company.

The laborers went back to work after Rieker suspended two personnel employees on April 5 and promised to improve working conditions.

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