Shenzhen factory workers united in protest at relocation plans

22 December 2017

Around two thousand workers at an optical technology factory in Shenzhen have been on strike since 16 December, demanding that their employer, US-based Sanmina, provide them with a decent a compensation package before the plant closes and moves to Thailand next year.

Workers on strike at Sanmina-SCI Optical Technology in Shenzhen (taken from worker video)

Employees at the Sanmina-SCI Optical Technology plant had been aware of the factory’s relocation plans since September but were angered at management’s lack of transparency on the issue. In a strongly worded statement dated 18 December, the workers demanded that the company “announce a specific contract termination date and proposed compensation package” before a single production facility is removed from the premises.

According to provincial regulations and articles 26 and 40 of China’s Labour Contract Law, employers are obliged to inform staff in advance of any relocation or closure plans, and engage in negotiations with workers in a general assembly, the trade union or worker representatives regarding compensation packages.

In response to the workers’ demands, Sanmina management warned of “severe disciplinary actions” for any financial losses incurred during the collective action, and said employees who were not working normally will have their salaries deducted.

In a more conciliatory tone, however, management stressed that international orders are still being processed at the Shenzhen facility, and that the relocation will gradually happen within the next two years. Workers were later presented with a compensation offer to remain at the Shenzhen plant for the transitional period. Most workers did not accept the offer, which expired on 20 December, deciding instead to hold out for a better offer, expected on 15 January.

The Sanmina dispute is just one of several relocation disputes that have erupted over the last two months. Since 1 November 2017, China Labour Bulletin’s Strike Map recorded 30 strikes and protests involving relocations or closures, nearly half of them in Guangdong.

About 1,000 workers at Biel Crystal Manufactory in Shenzhen, for example, went on strike earlier in December, also demanding transparency and accountability in the face of closure and relocation plans. Biel Crystal, a Hong Kong company which “makes screens for two out of every three iPhones sold in the world,” reportedly owes workers social insurance and housing provident fund contributions.

Nasdaq-listed Sanmina (SANM) employs nearly 60,000 staff across the world and, with global clients in the telecommunications, computing, medical, defense and aerospace industries, it “makes some of the most complex and innovative optical, electronic and mechanical products in the world.” According to its corporate website, Sanmina vows to provide a “positive work environment that encourages professional development and growth” around the world.

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