GUANGZHOU, November 26 – Hundreds of laid off workers rioted in southern China amid a dispute over severance pay, smashing offices of a toy factory and clashing with police, state press said Wednesday.,
The unrest in Guangdong province, the heartland of China’s export-oriented light industry, is the latest in a series of protests that have flared across the country amid rising unemployment linked to the global economic crisis.
The riot occurred Tuesday night in Dongguan, one of Guangdong’s major export hubs, after as many as 2,000 workers gathered to protest over their severance pay, the Guangzhou Daily reported.
"(Rioters) smashed one police vehicle and four police patrol cars… fought with security guards… and entered factory offices breaking windows and destroying equipment," the paper said.
Five people were injured in the violence, it said, with the report also published on a news website run by the government. There were no reports of arrests.
The riot occurred at the Kaida Toy Factory, a company owned by a Hong Kong firm in Dongguan’s Zhongtang township that is in the process of laying off workers, according to the Guangzhou Daily.
The report said that up to 500 workers rioted, while 1,500 others "looked on."
A photo of the unrest showed an upturned police mini-van with its windows smashed.
One worker surnamed Hu said that the factory laid off over 380 workers on Wednesday last week, giving more severance pay to workers who had been employed for more than seven years and less to other workers, it said.
"Many workers thought this was unfair and negotiations between the factory and the workers did not reach a resolution on the issue," the paper quoted Hu as saying, adding more job losses were expected this week.
Southern China has enjoyed an export-driven boom in recent years supplying the world with cheap toys, gadgets and clothes.
But amid the downturn in the global economy, coupled with rising labour costs, expensive raw materials and the appreciation of the Chinese currency, factories have found it difficult to make ends meet.
Up to 7,000 laid off workers staged a similar protest in Dongguan last month after the Hong Kong-owned toy factory they worked at, one of the nation’s biggest, closed down.