Workers Strike at Nike Contract Factory

By: By VU TIEN HONG
By: By VU TIEN HONG

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) -- More than 20,000 Vietnamese workers have walked off the job at a Taiwanese-owned plant that makes shoes for Nike Inc., demanding higher pay to keep pace with skyrocketing prices, officials said Tuesday.

The workers at Ching Luh plant, in southern Long An province, went on strike Monday. They want a 20 percent bump to their $59 average monthly salaries along with better lunches at the company cafeteria, said Nguyen Van Thua, an official with the province's trade union.

The plant has been making sneakers since 2002 and employs about 21,000 workers, most of them young rural women. The company is paying the workers 14 percent more than minimum wage, but soaring inflation is eroding their earnings, Thua said.

"The company has followed the Vietnamese laws in paying their workers, but given the fact that consumer prices are soaring day by day, the workers have had troubles with their daily expenses," Thua said.

Ching Luh plant is one of 10 factories that contract with Nike to produce sneakers in Vietnam. Nike's contractors in Vietnam make about 75 million pairs of shoes each year, and the Ching Luh plant accounts for about 12 percent, said Nike spokesman Chris Helzer.

"We recognize the impact that rising inflation has had on the people of Vietnam, and hope the situation will be resolved quickly and amicably," he said.

Consumer prices in Vietnam are 19 percent higher than they were a year ago, according to government figures. Hanoi responded in January by increasing the minimum wage foreign-owned companies are required to pay by roughly 13 percent.

As inflation has picked up in recent years, strikes have become more common, with workers demanding higher pay and better working conditions.

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