China town pays protesting workers after factory shuts

HONG KONG - Authorities in a Chinese town helped pay more than 1,000 workers after they marched to the town government office when their toy factory shut down, the latest unrest to hit the manufacturing hub as global economic woes take a toll.

Workers are desperate to safeguard jobs and keen to get their wages ahead of a major annual break for the Lunar New Year festival this month, when many migrant workers return home to far-flung villages.

The government of Hengli town in the manufacturing hub of Dongguan in Guangdong province paid 90 per cent of the more than 1,000 workers more than two months of wages totalling about 8 million yuan (S$1.68 million), a town official surnamed Yu told Reuters on Friday.

It was not clear why the government agreed to pay the workers although there have been instances in the past of district authorities paying workers when their employers can't.

Local governments are keen to resolve outbreaks of social unrest and avoid drawing the attention and ire of more senior officials.

Most of the factory workers went home for the Lunar New Year after being paid, Yu said.

The protesters had marched to the town government offices after Hong Kong-based Chuang Ying Toy Factory had abruptly announced the closure of the factory, said a worker who declined to be identified.

The owners had fled, the worker and government official said.

Falling exports and global economic uncertainty have hurt scores of toymakers and other manufacturers in China.

A few thousand toy factories closed in China in 2011 while about 10 per cent of workers in the industry lost their jobs, according to the Toy Manufacturers' Association of Hong Kong.

Further south, in the manufacturing hub of Shenzhen, 1,000 sanitation factory workers went on strike this week, the Sing Tao Daily newspaper reported on Friday.

Workers said they feared an imminent shutdown of the factory following the arrest of a company executive over corruption allegations, the newspaper said.