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Trade Union Federation Launched at Chinese Footwear Plant

A federation of trade unions was formed on Tuesday at the strike-embattled Yue Yuen Industrial Holdings. The Chinese footwear manufacturer, which supplies Nike, Adidas, Reebok, Crocs and more, made headlines in April when it saw massive strikes at its Gaobu factory in Dongguan, Guangdong province over underpaid contributions to workers’ social insurance benefits.

According to Nanfang Daily, the new federation consists of eight company committees, 17 factory brands and 186 workshop groups. Nearly 70 percent of Yue Yuen’s workforce, about 27,000 employees, joined the group, which aims to facilitate sound labor-capital relations, smooth out channels for workers to petition and establish a platform for negotiations. It will also act as a watchdog for workers’ petitions and provide the necessary support to the trade unions. The new federation replaces a highly criticized union launched in 2006 that had become inactive.

Chen Han, chairman of the trade union federation of Yue Yuen in Gaobu, told the Nanfang Daily, “Every worker has his or her opinion. When there are calls and suggestions, we should collect them in a timely manner and talk with the management.” He added, “We should build a platform for communication and subdivide the disputes. Only when we have harmonious labor-capital relations can we have sustained operation of the company and realize a win-win.”

After the strikes in April, the Dongguan government demanded the company correct its practices regarding social security benefit payments, and ordered a work team to devise a plan to make up for the underpayments. The footwear maker said direct losses from the strike cost it an estimated $27 million, while increased benefits to workers would cost it $31 million.