HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — More than 10,000 workers have walked off the job at a South Korean-owned plant that makes sneakers for Nike Inc., demanding higher pay to keep pace with rising prices in booming Vietnam, officials said Thursday.
The Tae Kwang Vina plant, in southern Dong Nai province, is one of 10 that contracts with Nike to produce shoes in Vietnam.
The average monthly salary at the plant, which makes shoes solely for Nike, is 1 million Vietnamese dong, or US$62 (euro42). That's about 20 percent more than Vietnam's minimum wage.
But with the country's 9.5 percent inflation rate eroding their earnings, the workers are demanding higher pay, bonuses and cost-of-living allowances, said Kieu Minh Sinh, an official with Dong Nai Provincial Trade Union.
''Given the fact that inflation is so high now, it is hard to say they are being too demanding,'' said Sinh, whose union was trying to resolve the dispute.
The plant in Dong Nai, some 30 kilometers (19 miles) northeast of Ho Chi Minh City, employs more than 14,000 workers, most of them young rural women.
Officials from the plant, run by the South Korean company Tae Kwang, declined to comment.
Alan Marks, a Nike spokesman, said the company was aware of the strike and was encouraging workers and factory management to work out their differences.
Nike said that its contractors in Vietnam make about 75 million pairs of shoes each year, and the Tae Kwang plant accounts for about 10 percent.
Prices in Vietnam, Southeast Asia's fastest growing economy, are 10 percent higher than they were a year ago. The government has promised to increase the minimum wage by roughly 12 percent, starting in January 2008.
As inflation has picked up in recent years, strikes have become more common, with workers demanding higher pay and better work conditions.
Last year, nearly 387 strikes took place in Vietnam, nearly 300 at foreign-owned firms, said Le Dinh Quang an official with Vietnam Trade Union.
In response, the government increased the minimum wage for workers at foreign firms by 25 percent last year.