Chinese workers riot over working conditions

Submitted by cathy n on 8 August, 2006 - 3:47

Over Chinese 1,000 workers rioted over poor working conditions at a factory which produces toys for McDonald's, according to the US labour rights group, China Labor Watch (CLW).

According to a China Labour Bulletin report, the incident began on 22 July when workers at the Hengli Factory in Dongguan City protested over meagre wages, the lack of public holidays and poor living conditions. The protest began in the workers' dormitories and evolved into a riot that stretched into Sunday, with more than 1,000 workers joining in.

It took more than 100 regular local policemen and those from the riot squads as well as factory guards to control the situation. Many people were injured and dozens of workers were arrested.

Workers at the factory, owned by the Hong Kong-based Merton Co Ltd typically work 11 hours a day, six days a week, and rack up to 70 hours of overtime a month.

The factory deducts salary if workers refuse to work overtime and does not pay workers for taking national holidays, vacation days or sick leave, according to the group. Overtime is not paid at the rate of 1.5 times the regular rate as required by the law. There is no base salary for workers, who are paid on a piece rate basis. Salaries range between 600 and 800 yuan (US$75 and US$100) per month. Workers must pay 250 yuan for food and accommodation each month, and complained that the factory's meals were poor. Merton also failed to provide workers with adequate medical insurance or pensions.

Half of Merton’s products were manufactured for McDonald’s. The factory makes toys for McDonald's restaurants, not just in Hong Kong, but also in other countries. According to Merton's website, the factory employs 10,000 workers producing plastic toys. The company manufactures toys and give-away gift items for U.S. companies McDonald's, Disney, Mattel, Warner and DC Comics.

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