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16,000 workers strike in China over mooncakes, benefits

Reuters | Thursday, Sep 11, 2014

SHANGHAI/DONGGUAN - About 16,000 workers at two subsidiaries of Taiwanese touch-screen maker Wintek Corp went on strike over holiday benefits this week in southern China in one of the biggest work stoppages this year, the Xinhua news agency reported.

A Wintek executive said the strikes started on Tuesday at subsidiary Dongguan Masstop Liquid Crystal Display Co Ltd and spread on Wednesday to Wintek (China) Technology Ltd. Each factory employs about 8,000 workers, said the executive who declined to be identified as he was not authorised to speak on behalf of the company.

The strikes ended on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively, and the company did not expect production to be affected, the executive added. He did not say how many workers had participated.

Wintek is a long-time supplier to Apple Inc, but it was not immediately clear who the factories' main customers were. A Wintek Corp facility in the eastern city of Suzhou, near Shanghai, is on the iPhone and iPad maker's list of 2014 suppliers, but not the factories in Dongguan.

An Apple spokesman in California said the company generally did not comment on supplier relationships beyond the list.

Six police vehicles were parked in the rain outside the gates of the Wintek factory in an industrial estate in the southern city of Dongguan on Thursday, although there were no workers in sight.

A manager surnamed Wu said: "Things have been settled now. The workers are back to work."

China has seen a surge in the number of strikes at its factories in recent years as the economy slowed and a worsening labour shortage has shifted the balance of power in labour relations. Smartphones and social media have also helped workers become more aware than ever of the changing environment.

The largest strike in decades took place in April when about 40,000 workers halted production at a shoe factory complex in Dongguan that supplies Nike Inc, Adidas AG and other major sneaker brands. Those workers were unhappy about insufficient social insurance payments.

Workers involved in the Wintek strike told Xinhua that recruitment advertisements had offered cash bonuses equal to half of their monthly base salary on three holidays: the Dragon Boat Festival, Mid-Autumn Festival and Spring Festival.

A worker surnamed Zhang told Xinhua they were only given 100 yuan, a piece of chicken and a banana for Mid-Autumn Festival, which was on Monday. Last year each staff member received 700 yuan ($114.17) in cash and a box of traditional mooncakes.

The workers returned to work after officials explained that the downgraded holiday benefits were a reflection of the company's relatively weak performance so far this year, the Wintek official said. Wintek incurred a loss in the first half.

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