[ National Labor Committee ]   



Location: Shengzhen (Shajing Township, Bao’an district)
Employees: 3500
Sex ratio: 1 (male) to 3 (female)
A subsidiary of Practical Group, Inc. (30,000)

This is a contractor with the American company Farberware. Its product, Farberware can opener, is sold at $20 on average in many American stores. Workers are paid 4 cents for each of them.


l        In peak production seasons workers are required to stay 16.5 hours a day in the factory, working 14 hours (all standing), 7 days a week and 30 days a month. Normally workers work over 375 hours a month. No more than 10 days off a whole year including all holidays.

l        Hourly wage 1.22 RMB (15 cents). Forced overtime. Some new workers do 4 hours overtime but are paid for only 2 hours. Overtime hourly wage 1.65 RMB (20 cents).

l        Heavy workload. Assignment could not be finished within 12.5 normal working hours.

l        Very harsh factory regulations. Violations are met by fines or firing.

l        A very small dormitory houses 16 workers. Room and board deducted from wages. No bathroom and toilets.

l        Employment requires a 60 RMB fees. Workers start being paid their first month wages after being employed 75 days. No work contract.

l        No medical, retirement and unemployment insurance. Workers are fired if ill.

l        Workers are often abused and humiliated at the worksite.

l        Generally only female workers of ages 18-25 are hired

l        A factory “Improvement Committee” only responsible for better quality and more output, unconcerned with workers welfare. No union.

Work Hours

Under normal conditions, workers stay inside the factory for around 15.5 hours.

7:30 -12:00                          Working
12:00 -1:30                          Lunch break
1:30 - 5:30                           Working
5:30 - 6:30                           Supper break
6:30 - 10:30                         Forced Overtime 
10:30 - 11:00                       Cleaning and finishing

Workers work 7 days a week. Every week total time at the worksite amounts to an average of 105 hours and working time 87.5 hours.

In the peak season workers stay in the factory for an average of 16.5 hours per day.

7:30 -12:00                           Working
12:00 -1:30                           Lunch break
1:30 - 5:30                            Working
5:30 - 6:30                            Supper break
6:30 -12:00                           Forced Overtime  (sometimes working 24 hours)

Workers work 7 days a week. Every week total time at the worksite amounts to an average of 111.5 hours and working time 98 hours (standing).

Normally workers work 30 days, over 375 hours a month. No more than 10 days off during the whole year, including all holidays.


Hourly wage is 1.22 RMB (about 15 cents).

Normal day shift from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., 8.5 working hours for which the workers are paid 11.5 RMB ($1.41)

Overtime from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. is paid 1.65 RMB an hour (20 cents), 6.6 RMB (80 cents) for 4 hours.

So the workers are paid

2.25 dollars a day (12.5 hours);
15.47 dollars a week (87.5 hours);
67.5 dollars a month (375 hours)
810 dollars a year

However, the workers who have less than 3 months experience are paid for only 2 their 4 hours overtime. About 20% of workers belong to this category (since many workers quit--losing their deposit--because of the inhuman conditions). They are paid at

1.75 dollars a day (12.5 hours);
12.5 dollars a week (87.5 hours);
52.5 dollars a month (375 hours)


Heavy workload. Daily assignment could be finished within 12.5 hours and the factory doesn’t pay the workers beyond 12.5 hours.

For example, a Farberware can opener production line is composed of 23 workers with a daily assignment of 1400 pieces. If the workers in the line fail to produce 1400 pieces by 10:30 p.m., they are forced to go on working, as ‘voluntary work’ (the term used by management). If they finish the assignment before 10:30 p.m., they have to continue until 10:30. In both cases, there is no additional overtime pay.

Harsh Factory Rules

A “major offense” results in a fine of 100 RMB ($12); a ‘minor’ one 50 RMB ($6); a ‘warning’ 10 RMB ($1.2).

For example, for being even one minute late, a worker would be fined 50 RMB, which is more than her whole day’s wage; if not ‘respectful’ of the superiors, such as talking back, the worker receives a warning; if taking a day off without permission from superiors, a major offense; if refusing to work overtime, a major offense.  Three times refusing to work overtime leads to firing.

Room and Board

A very small dormitory houses 16 workers. Workers sleep in bunks. There is one bathroom for all of them.

Room and board are deducted from wages. The room costs 40 RMB ($5) per month. A meal, provided by the factory, costs 3-5 RMB. Some workers only eat two meals to save money. 

Sometimes because of the deductions and heavy fines, workers may owe money to the factory after a month.

Sign-up and Quitting

When workers sign up for the job, they are required to pay 60 RMB fees: 45 RMB for uniform, 5 RMB for factory ID, 10RMB for room registration.

Workers receive their first month’s pay after they have worked 75 days. In essence, the factory withholds one and a half months of workers’ wages as deposit.

Workers don’t have a contract and cannot quit the job. The only way out is leaving on their own, in which case they lose two and a half months’ wages (Deposit plus the last month’s wages). In the peak season the workload is too heavy and many workers would like to leave. However, the loss of money prevents them from doing so.


The workers don’t have any insurance.

If a worker is ill beyond 3-day sick leave, he or she will be fired by the factory.

Humiliation and Abuses

Workers are often humiliated and abused at work. For example, if a worker slows down the product line, the line leader will harshly scold him or her or even impose other punishments.

Workers can only go to the bathroom with permission from their supervisor. Female workers sometimes cry when not given the permission to go to the bathroom.

Gender Issues

In general the factory tries to hire only female workers aged 18-25. Female workers older than 25 are considered physically unfit for the tough working conditions. Xin Qiao’s workload is too much for many female workers. As a result the factory has recruited many male workers.


No union. If some workers raise demands about improving working and living conditions, they will be fired immediately, forfeiting their deposit and last month’s wages.

In December 1999, some workers were planning a strike, with the only demand being no overtime from 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. on Sundays. More than one thousand workers were soon  involved. The representatives of the workers went to the management and then the municipal labor bureau, but to no avail. The factory fired them immediately and threatened to turn them to police. 

An “Improvement Committee” was set up in January of 1999. However, it is controlled by the management and only concerned with better quality and more output. Its setup actually worked against workers’ interests. For example, before January 1999, Workers could be seated while working. The committee recommended as a measure to increase output that workers work in a standing position. Many female workers were reduced to tears when this requirement was first put into practice in February 1999.


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