Nike contract plant in Vietnam remains closed for fear of violence

HANOI, Vietnam: A Taiwanese-owned factory that makes sneakers for Nike Inc. remained closed Thursday following a two-day strike as union officials worked to convince unsatisfied Vietnamese workers that a fair deal had been reached with the company.

Dozens of union and government officials were sent to talk to workers of the Ching Luh factory to persuade them to accept the terms offered by management amid fears of violence at the plant, said Nguyen Van Thua, an official with the Long An provincial trade union.

It remains unclear when the 21,000 employees will return to the job.

On Tuesday, the company agreed to increase monthly wages by 10 percent, or 100,000 dong (US$6), and provide free lunches to employees in a settlement reached with union officials and worker representatives.

About 17,000 workers at the plant reported for work Wednesday, but a brawl broke out following a spat between a former worker and a security guard, causing the factory to shut down.

Thua said many workers did not agree with the deal, insisting on monthly raises of 200,000 dong (US$12). The plant remained closed for the safety of workers and equipment, as fears rose of further violence, he said.

“One hundred thousand dong is nothing, given that everything is a lot more expensive now,” said a worker that declined to give her name for fear of losing her job. “But I want the job, and I will go back to the factory Monday.”

Some workers distributed leaflets in front of the plant on Thursday calling for others to continue the strike.

Nike said the factory would be closed until management is confident that all workers support the negotiated settlement.

“We hope that the trade union can facilitate a safe return to work for all factory employees based on an agreed-upon settlement,” said Nike’s spokesman, Chris Helzer.

Consumer prices in Vietnam are 19 percent higher than they were a year ago, according to government figures. The skyrocketing inflation has led to a wave of recent nationwide strikes. Hanoi responded in January by increasing the minimum wage foreign-owned companies are required to pay by roughly 13 percent.

Nike said the Ching Luh plant has been operating since 2002. It is one of 10 factories that contact with Nike to produce about 75 million pairs of shoes a year in Vietnam. The Ching Luh plant accounts for about 12 percent of the total.

http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2008/04/03/business/AS-FIN-COM-Vietnam-Nike-Strike.php

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