Tens of thousands of Chinese workers of Yue Yuen in Dongguan, one of the country’s largest sports shoe manufacturers andsupplier to international brands like Adidas, Puma, Asics and Nike, continue to strike for welfare payments. Even the threat of layoffs could not deter the approximately 50,000 striking workers. A spokesperson for Adidas confirmed that the factory in Dongguan currently operates with half its workforce but assured that production had not slowed down.
Though mandatory by law, benefits in form of payments for pensions, medical insurance, housing allowances and injury compensation are hardly ever paid out. The workers no longer want to put up with this situation and thus took to the streets. They are making use of the fact that there is a labor shortage especially in the main production centers in the south and remain steadfast in their demands.
Even though the management promised on Tuesday to increase employee benefits “significantly” from 1st May, workers did not want to hear empty promises anymore and kept striking. "The company has been cheating on us for ten years already,” said one worker. "Many of us began to find out our social insurance contribution from our employers were at least 200 yuan short every month, dating back nearly two decades," explained another.
International observers already speak of change and reaching a milestone, given that workers do not strike for more pay but for their rights. Even though strikes and demonstrations are hardly ever permitted in China, the authorities tolerate protests as long as they are not organized or coordinated across the country.
According to the company’s own account, Yue Yuen is the world’s largest sports shoe manufacturer and employed 423,000 workers in 2012. In 2013, the company produced 313 million pairs of shoes.