Post by Walter Lippmann
The influence of the conventional media on forums such as Marxmail
is not hard to see. Discussions and debates here often reflect the
selections, the tone and the attitude laid out in the capitalist
media. For example, China-bashing has become very common in the
US media, since the ruling class is somewhat split over whether or
not to accept or reject expanded Chinese influence in the economy
of the United States of America. Counterposed tendencies publish
their views seeking support among the public. This is surprising?
China Labor Watch: Shoe Factory Workers Still Live in Humiliation
Mei Xing Shoe Factory is one of the production facilities of the
Taiwan-invested Kingmaker Footwear Holdings Ltd. (which was listed on the
Hong Kong stock market: SEHK 1170) in Zhuhai City, Guangdong Province,
China. The factory manufactures footwear products for several
multinational shoe companies, including popular brands
Clarks and Skechers.
Thousands of workers at the Mei Xing are still working in humiliating
conditions, illegally and invasively searched by security guards at the end
of work every day.
Xiao Ping, a 17-year-old female worker from Sichuan Province, told China
Labor Watch?s investigator that she and her fellow workers are searched by
female security guards every day when they leave the workshop. She feels
this is a great humiliation to her, but she just found this job a month ago
and has not received her first month?s wages yet. She has no other choice
but to tolerate this mortifying experience.
A Xin, a 24-year-old worker from Guangdong Province, has been working at
the factory for two years. She reports that she still feels extremely
uneasy by the degrading way that those male security guards look at her
while she is being searched by the female guards. She said she cannot quit
because she needs the job to support herself and her family.
After China Labor Watch released its investigation report in June 2005,
several media outlets followed up with the stories. However, when
questioned about the body searches, the factory management denied that they
were conducting illegal searches, stating that they were merely trying to
prevent shoes from being stolen from the factory. China Labor Watch
believes that there are ways to prevent workers from stealing shoes other
than by intrusive and humiliating body searches. Dear friends, body
searches are illegal and a serious violation of workers? basic human
rights, but this is what thousands of workers at the Kingmaker Zhuhai
factory have to face every day. This violation must be corrected
immediately. Please write letters and make phone calls to Clarks, Skechers
and Kingmaker urging them to stop this illegal practice and improve working
conditions at factories that manufacture their products. Please also
contact the Zhuhai Labor and Social Security Bureau to seek their help.
They may not listen to the workers, but they will listen to you. Their
contact information is below
Skechers USA, Inc.
ATTN: Robert Greenberg, CEO
228 Manhattan Beach Blvd.
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
Clarks Companies, N.A.
ATTN: Peter Bolliger, CEO
156 Oak Street
Newton Upper Falls, MA 02464
Kingmaker Footwear Holdings
17th Floor, Empress Plaza
Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Zhuhai Labor and Social Security Bureau
66 Kangning Road
Zhuhai, Guangdong Province
For more information about the Mei Xing factory, see China Labor Watch?s
Li Qiang Executive Director, China Labor Watch
The Kingmaker Company's Factory in Zhuhai, China: Stolen Wages, Unfair
Labor Practices Contents
II. Work Hours
IV. Living Conditions
VI. Labor Intensity and Price of Labor
VII. Fines and Abusive Treatment
VIII. Holidays and Benefits
IX. Hiring Policy
X. Work-Related Injuries and Occupational Diseases
XI. Monitoring and Inspections
Kingmaker Footwear Holdings Ltd. (Chinese name: Xin Xing Ji Tuan) is a
Taiwan-invested company that produces infant, fashion, casual and rugged
footwear. It operates 35 production lines in China and Vietnam, and these
production lines employ about 20,000 total workers. In 2003 it invested
over USD $60 million in new production facilities. Its largest customers
include multinational footwear manufacturers like Skechers, Clarks, Stride
Rite and Wolverine. This investigative report concerns the Kingmaker Zhuhai
factory (Chinese name: Mei Xing Xie Chang), which is one of Kingmaker
Footwear Holding Ltd's production facilities. Kingmaker Zhuhai is located
in the Xiangzhou Cuizhu Industrial Zone of Zhuhai City, Guangdong Province,
China and employs a total of 14,000 workers. Our investigation was
conducted in Plant 1 of the Mei Xing factory (hereafter referred to as
"Kingmaker Zhuhai"), which employs about 7,000 workers." Kingmaker Zhuhai
manufactures footwear products for several shoe companies, including Clarks
and Skechers. This brief report is intended to document several instances
in which factory operators violate workers' legal rights. Such violations
must be corrected immediately.
II. Work Hours
Work hours at Kingmaker Zhuhai are from 7:30 to 21:00, with lunch break
from 11:40 to 12:40 and dinner break from 16:40 to 18:00. However, the
factory employs a staggered break system in which groups of workers start
their breaks at three different times, but return to work at the same time.
Thus, mid-day rest shifts begin at 11:40, 12:00, and 12: 20, but all
workers return to work at 12:40. Evening breaks begin at 16:40, 17:00, and
17:20 pm, and all workers return at 18:00.
There are different total work hours for workers in different departments.
Because factory policy stipulates that workers cannot receive more than 3
hours of overtime pay, any overtime hours beyond the normal three are
calculated as part of the regular 8-hour workday, i.e. the worker is not
paid for them. Nonetheless, occasionally, when there are many orders,
workers are required to work overtime until 1:00 or even 2:00 am,
effectively losing many hours of pay. If a worker puts in this kind of
overtime, he or she will work up to 18.5 hours in a day.
In addition to work hours, workers are also required to attend work-
related morning meetings and do workplace cleaning every morning from 7:00
to 7:30 without receiving any compensation. In addition, workers are not
allowed to punch their time card when working on Saturdays, even though
they are paid for their Saturday hours. Workers work 6 days a week with
only Sunday off, but they get Saturday off as well when the factory does
not have many orders. Workers are not allowed to leave the factory during
lunch break, when they have to take their rest on the shop floors, though
they may leave the factory during dinner break if they choose.
The factory implements two types of wage paying practices: hourly wages for
workers in the warehouse and sample rooms and piece-rate wages for workers
in the production departments. In other words, workers who produce items
are paid by the number of items they produce, whereas workers who work in
other departments are paid by the hour.
The standard hourly wage is 27 yuan for an 8-hour workday, i.e. 3.375
yuan/hour. However, the overtime rate is 2.5 yuan per hour, even lower than
the regular rate. In addition, the factory uses the wage structure above
for regular and overtime hours on rest days and statutory holidays in
violation of China Labor Law, which mandates that a 50% premium be paid for
overtime during regular work days, 100% for overtime on rest days, and 200%
for overtime on statutory holidays.
Workers who are paid a piece-rate wage are paid according to the number of
products they produce. These workers also receive a base wage of 510 yuan
per month, but only if they complete their monthly piece quota. This is
extremely burdensome for piece-rate wage workers during the slow season
because if the factory has very few orders, the worker may not receive a
base wage due to failure to complete the quota. One worker in the stitching
department said that she received only 24 yuan in March, 2005.
For this reason, many workers feel it is preferable to get an hourly wage
instead of a piece-rate wage. Production workers who have a good
relationship with the supervisor of their department are sometimes paid an
hourly wage instead of a piece one. Workers report that their wages are
becoming lower and lower each year. Organized by some managing staff
members, workers were on strike for three days in April 2004, but as a
result only managers' salaries were raised, leading one to believe that
perhaps that was the original intent of the managers. . Workers at the
cutting department went on strike on May 2, 2005, but they were told that
if they are not satisfied with their wages, they could switch to other
Workers receive their work payment at the end of each month. According to
factory policy, workers get a month's pay at the end of the following
month, i.e. they receive their wages one month in arrears. If a workers
wants to quit the job and get the last month' s pay, he or she must give
the factory 15 days' notice and get permission from his or her group
director, team director, department director and finally the factory
director. The worker will not be allowed to quit with pay if any of the
directors does not agree with his or her decision to leave the factory.
Therefore, many workers choose to quit without notifying the factory and
thus lose one month's payment.
Workers receive pay stubs each month. From an analysis of 5 pay stubs from
one worker over a five-month period, one can see that a worker's income at
Kingmaker Zhuhai varies drastically from month to month. Here are net
incomes for this worker during the five month period:
Nov., 2004: ?1152 (about $139)
Dec., 2004: ?900 (about $108)
Jan., 2005: ?754 (about $91)
Feb., 2005: ?278 (about $34)
Mar., 2005: ?853 (about $103)
The photo below shows two of the pay stubs cited above, viz., November 2004
and December 2004. Looking at the various figures printed on the pay stub
for December 2004, we can see in the left column that the base salary is
510 yuan, while the actual net income taken home by the worker is 900 yuan.
This 900 yuan is arrived at after adding per-piece wage
In the middle column, the actually given piece rate, a combination of base
wage and per-piece compensation, is 975 yuan. Below that, per-piece
compensation is 515. At the bottom of the middle column, we see two
numbers, 30 and 20, that correspond to miscellaneous compensations and
compensation for food purchases, respectively. In the far right column we
see fees and deductions totaling 125. First, there is a monthly fee of 80
yuan for use of the canteen. There is also a cleaning service fee of 1
yuan, and retirement insurance of 44 yuan. The factory simultaneously gives
workers 20 yuan for food while also charging them 80 yuan because the 20
yuan is considered to be a kind of monthly benefit for anybody working
inside the factory. If we look again at the pay stub, we see that this
worker had take- home earnings of 900 yuan in December, in November the
figure was instead 1152 yuan. While the base wage of 510 yuan is the same
for both months, the piece-wage rate was higher, indicating that the worker
produced more pieces in November than December.
The fact that the worker receives a piece-rate wage on top of his or her
base salary indicates that the worker earns a piece wage, not an hourly
wage. This means that, no matter how many hours the worker is at the
factory, he or she will be paid only for the number of pieces produced.
(Conversely, workers who are paid an hourly wage are paid without regard to
the number of pieces they produce.) Despite this, however, as mentioned
above, a worker who works in a department that normally pays by the piece
(such as a production department) may be paid by the hour instead if he or
she is on good terms with the department supervisor. In general, workers
prefer to be paid by the hour because the income is comparatively stable.
By getting paid by the hour instead of by the piece, a worker's income will
generally be the same regardless of whether the factory has many orders or not.
IV. Living Conditions
There are two dormitory buildings in the factory compound. Each dorm
building has 7 floors with over 20 rooms on each floor. There are 5 sets of
double-tiered bunks per room, i.e. there are 10 workers per room. Two fans
are placed in each room, and each worker gets his or her own clothing
cupboard, but there are only two bathrooms/shower rooms per floor, meaning
that these two facilities on each floor are shared by over 200 people. Each
worker is charged 70 yuan (previously 46 yuan) for living in the dormitory,
and there are strict rules enforced. It is not uncommon for managers to
throw workers quilts, shoes and clothes into trashcans if they are not
properly arranged. Workers' belongings are often stolen, and there is a
general feeling of non-safety. For all of these reasons, some workers
choose to live outside of the factory dormitory, but the standard of living
is low because few workers can afford a decent place.
The factory canteen is located on the first floor of the worker dormitory.
Previously the factory charged each worker 80 yuan per month for food, but
as of May, 2005, the figure has skyrocketed to 180 yuan (about $22).
Moreover, this 180 yuan is deducted regardless of whether a worker eats
dinner at the factory canteen or not. Each meal provided consists of 3
dishes of vegetable or meat and one soup, and workers report that while
there is a decent amount of oil in the food, it is flavorless. Food
provided is in general of poor quality and little quantity, and there have
been reports of dead rats found in food
Therefore, many workers choose to have dinner outside the factory or cook
by themselves even though they are still forced to pay for canteen use.
Food provided to workers who work overtime after midnight are daytime
In the past, meat dishes for workers in fact consisted only of the skins of
the meat. Meat itself was not put in the workers' food and was given
instead to management. However, this situation seems to be improving
because more money is being charged. Because the food is of such poor
quality, workers rarely feel full after eating. Moreover, because workers
are not free to leave the factory compound at lunchtime, they do not have
the choice of eating outside the factory.
VI. Labor Intensity and Price of Labor
The models that this factory is currently manufacturing include Clark's
11319 and 11313.
The piece rate is different for different departments. A worker in the
cutting department can finish 13,000 pairs within 8 hours and get paid
0.0025 yuan per pair, i.e. 32.5 yuan for an 8-hour workday. Each production
line in the molding department can manufacture 2000 pairs of shoes and
workers are paid 1.2 to 1.8 yuan per pair; and the rate in the stitching
department is 2 yuan per piece. In other words, for producing one pair of
shoes that is sold for dozens or hundreds of dollars in the retail market,
the cumulative wage for workers in all three departments is less than 5.2 ?
5.8 yuan, which is equivalent to 63 to 70 cents.
There are many pregnant workers on the production lines, but the factory
has taken no protective measures. They are required to work the same hours
as other workers.
In order to speed up production, supervisors often verbally harass workers
in the factory by calling them "pigs", cursing their parents, and sometime
even beating workers.
VII. Fines and Abusive Treatment ? Monetary fines exists in the
factory: the standard is 30 yuan for a "minor offence" and 90 yuan for a
"major offence", which is determined by the supervisors ? Three days'
pay is deducted for being absent for one day ? 30 yuan is deducted for
losing one's factory ID ? Workers are required to purchase work
uniforms: 28 yuan per article of winter clothing, and 15 yuan per article
of summer clothing ? Illegal body searches. Sometimes security guards
will search workers if shoes are found missing, and they do not apologize
if nothing is found
VIII. Holidays and Benefits ? Workers are allowed to take days
off without pay for Labor Day and National Day, which each allow for three
days off with pay under the law
? No paid maternity leave, wedding or bereavement leave
? Monthly bonus of 30 yuan for full work attendance provided the
worker is not late or absent and did not ask for time off.
? Annual bonus of 100 yuan for workers who have worked 1-3 years; 150
yuan for those who have worked 3-5 years; and 200 yuan for workers who have
worked over 5 years.
? All other benefits, such as housing compensation, food compensation,
medical compensation, etc. have all been cancelled since the factory
started to purchase retirement insurance for workers.
IX. Hiring Policy
The majority of workers are from Hunan, Sichuan, and Jiangxi provinces. At
least 90% of the workers are women. Male workers have to pay at least 1000
yuan to be hired.
The factory subjects new workers to a health inspection for which workers
have to pay 55 yuan (50 yuan for the inspection, 5 yuan for
transportation), whereas it costs only 35 yuan to get a health inspection
at a hospital. New workers are provided no training before they start.
The factory management signs a contract with workers around September of
each year and the contract is valid for one year. There is only one copy of
the contract and it is kept by management. Workers state that there is a
great discrepancy between the content of the contract and what is practiced
in reality. All they do is sign their names; there is no room for
negotiating with management.
X. Work-related Injuries and Occupational Diseases
Work-related injuries are not uncommon in the factory. Management provides
no monetary compensation except for that which comes from the insurance
company. A toxic, corrosive and malodorous chemical is still being used in
the molding department. Workers often faint due to the unpleasant smell
even when they wear surgical masks.
XI. Monitoring and Inspections
When questioned, workers state that there is no trade union at the factory.
The factory has suggestion boxes for workers' complaints. However, workers
said that they seldom make any use of the boxes, because the management
would not address the issues they raised. The factory also coaches workers
on how to speak to compliance teams or human rights monitoring staff who
visit the facility. It also threatens workers by telling them that if they
say anything to the monitoring teams, they will have to leave the factory
once the compliance team is finished.
China Labor Watch P.O. Box 4134
Grand Central Station
New York, NY 10163-4134