Striking Shenzhen factory workers seek support from municipal trade union

Close to 1,000 workers at Artigas Clothing & Leatherwear Co. Ltd in Shenzhen have been out on strike for seven days in a bid get the company to address their demands over unpaid social insurance, overtime, and compensation for factory relocation.

The workers issued a request for collective bargaining on 15 December but Artigas, a Hong Kong-owned garment maker that supplies brands such as G2000, Uniqlo, and Baleno did not respond.

In order to increase the pressure on their employer, a group of eight democratically-elected workers’ representatives met with officials from the municipal trade union federation on 16 December to outline their demands and their proposal for collective bargaining. See photo below.

One of the representatives, 37-year-old Peng Yufeng, said the union officials told them that the company was in clear violation of labour law, and promised to get the district trade union involved as soon as possible.

“The union officials were quite surprised by our level of organisation and the fact that we could present such well-structured demands,” Peng said. “We look forward to the union’s response."

The workers approached the municipal trade union because although there is supposed to be an enterprise union, the workers said they did not know who the union chairman was and had never paid any union dues.

Hundreds of workers are continuing to picket the factory gate around the clock in a bid to prevent the company from removing valuable assets. The company had announced its intention to relocate to another part of Shenzhen but has not yet given the workers any timetable.

One of the pickets, 30-year-old Da Qiang, explained how the strikers kept going. “Instead of just sitting here doing nothing, we have made the strike more fun. We march and play gongs and drums during the day and organize dances during the night,” he said.

All these activities are conducted within the factory grounds because, as Peng Yufeng explained: “The police said there won’t be any arrests as long as the workers stay in the factory and don’t damage any property. They have a tough job as well because they have to be at the gate 24 hours a day just like us.”

In addition to their on-site activities, the workers have been active on social media and have attracted the attention of several official media outlets, including Guangdong Television.The strikers have also gained the support of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions and Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour who organized protests outside Uniqlo and G2000 stores in neighbouring Hong Kong today. See photo from Weibo below.

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