Wednesday, November 18, 2009

[olympiaworkers] China: Strike by 3,000 women workers

Hainan garment workers take on European lingerie giant 'Triumph'

Sunday, 15 November 2009., Hong Kong

Women workers at a garment factory in Hainan, southern China, began a
strike on Wednesday 11 November to press their demands on pay and
vacations after management announced drastic cuts in bonuses. Around 3,000
workers at the Hainan Youmei Underwear Co., Ltd in Haikou City, the
provincial capital, gathered outside the plant. The factory is wholly
owned by German-Swiss lingerie giant Triumph International, one of the
world's leading manufacturers of women's underwear.

"The strike started after the management said a worker could not get
year-end bonus if her production efficiency failed to reach 50 percent of
the average level last year," Mo Xiaohui, a worker at the plant told
Xinhua. "That was impossible for most of us as the production dropped
sharply in the financial crisis."

"The boss wants to cut our bonus worth about 700 yuan (102 U.S. dollars),
even if our monthly salary is as low as between 500 yuan and 600 yuan (73
to 88 U.S. dollars)," said a worker named Li Guihua. "It's going too far."

By Friday the company agreed to pay all workers their bonus, but workers
decided to continue their strike over their other demands, Han Lirong,
head of the firm's official (state-controlled) union, was quoted as
saying. Workers across China's manufacturing sector, many of them migrants
without job protection or rights to medical insurance and pensions, have
suffered pay cuts this year as the global capitalist crisis has battered
China. The government's stimulus measures have helped save the rich, big
companies and corrupt officialdom, but have not benefited factory workers
and the poor.

"Now we have to go on strike as we have long been asking the company to
accept our demands," Mo said.

In addition to protesting over the threatened cut in bonuses, the Triumph
workers are demanding the company raise wages to the minimum national
standard and provide employees with normal levels of leave. Huang Xueyan,
the company's personnel manager, said the negotiation was hard as workers
would not select representatives to talk with the management. This is not
surprising! It just shows the difficulties facing workers during labour
disputes in China, where genuine independent trade unions are outlawed.
The Haikou workers have undoubtedly decided not to put forward individual
representatives for fear of victimisation by the company or by the state –
on grounds that their strike "undermines stability".

Triumph International's record

Triumph International, which has its global headquarters in Switzerland,
had an annual turnover of 1.6 billion euros in 2003, with 38,691 employees
in 120 countries. The company is no newcomer to accusations of labour
abuses and union-busting. In June this year it closed down two factories
in the Philippines and halved its Thai workforce as part of a global
'restructuring' plan. The moves were widely seen as a ploy to smash the
unions at its operations in these countries. Earlier this year, the
company's wholly-owned subsidiary Body Fashion Thailand, dismissed union
president Jitra Kotshadej for taking part in a national television debate
wearing a t-shirt with the text 'Thinking differently is not a crime'.

Workers from the Philippines and Thailand units of Triumph International,
supported by Hong Kong trade unions and migrant groups, staged a protest
in August 2009 outside the company's offices in Kowloon Bay, Hong Kong.
They were protesting about Triumph's closure plan with the retrenchment of
1,663 workers in the Philippines, and the loss of almost 2,000 jobs in

"When it comes to profit, Triumph International is so fast to extract
wealth from us but when it comes to obligation and responsibility, they
are now running away." Isabelita dela Cruz, a spokeswoman and union
representative from the Philippines. "We cannot wait for any longer
because our families and children in the Philippines and in Thailand are
suffering and live in miserable condition. Many of our children stop
schooling and soon we will be ejected from our homes."

[Triumph workers protest against sackings]

Solidarity needed! is appealing for international support and solidarity for
the women strikers in Haikou. They are pitted against a notoriously
exploitative company and fighting courageously under a political regime
that bans strikes and often resorts to severe repression. Solidarity
action could include sending letters, faxes and emails of protest to the
company (address below) or staging protests outside company offices or
stores selling Triumph underwear. gives its permission for this article to be reproduced
and used as an information leaflet in connection with solidarity action.
Triumph International global headquarters:
Promenadenstrasse 24
Bad Zurzach 5330
Phone: 49 89 51 11 80

Triumph International Asia headquarters:
32/F One Kowloon
1 Wang Yuen St Kowloon Bay
Kln Hong Kong
Business Tel (852) 2341 2211
Business Fax (852) 2793 5181

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