Workers on strike at Chinese toy factories

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More than 2,200 workers at a toy company in the north-central province of Nghe An have been on a wildcat strike for several days, demanding higher salaries and better working conditions.

The strike began on May 21 when workers at four Chinese-owned Matrix Company factories, which produce teddy bears and toys for export at the Bac Vinh Industrial Park, stopped working and lodged their demands.

On the following day, company representative Liu Yu Lin met with the workers for negotiations.

According to Nghe An newspaper, the workers demanded salary increases to meet government-regulated minimum wages, as well as extra increases for workers at the B1 painting facility due to the extremely hazardous nature of the working environment. The workers also complained that their workplaces were too hot for work.

The workers said that the company had illegally dismissed several workers, and had reduced bonuses while increasing work loads.

The workers also complained that they were divided into groups to take turns having lunch and that the first groups had to wait in the sun for the other groups to finish eating before being allowed into the factory again.

Many workers were temporarily laid off due to slow productions but they were not paid unemployment support. Meanwhile, others had to work ten hours a day for a monthly salary of only VND2.4 million (US$115).

Liu admitted to several wrongdoings, including late salary payment and mistakes in calculating salaries. However, he said the company would not increase salaries in the near future.

On Wednesday morning, the workers went on strike for a third day. The situation became more tense when they accused two administrative employees of insulting them and rushed to the office to demand an apology.

During the jostling, two workers, Tran Thi Tham and Nguyen Thi Duyen, went unconscious and were rushed to the hospital. Police arrived on the scene to maintain security.

The workers said they would continue to strike until the company agrees to increase their salaries.

Early this year, Deputy Prime Mininster Nguyen Thien Nhan ordered better labor policies in response to the 900 wildcat strikes that took place in 2011, twice the number of the previous year.

A report by the Ministry of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs showed the number of wildcat strikes has been increasing over the years, with more than 4,100 since 1995.

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