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Brawl Closes Nike Contract Factory After Strike

Two-day strike at a Nike sneaker factory has ended, but the plant remained closed Wednesday after violence erupted when workers began returning to the job.

BEN LUC, Vietnam (AP) -- A two-day strike at a Vietnamese factory that makes Nike sneakers has ended, but the plant remained closed Wednesday after violence erupted when workers began returning to the job, a union official said.
About 17,000 of the Ching Luh plant's 21,000 employees reported to work Wednesday morning after the labor union and management of the Taiwanese-owned plant reached an agreement to increase monthly wages by 100,000 dong (US$6) amid record-high inflation, said Pham Thi Lap, head of the labor union of southern Long An province in Vietnam's Mekong Delta, where the plant is located.
But after a brawl broke out following a spat between a former worker and a security guard, police were called in and the plant was closed, Lap said. No one was seriously injured, but several workers were beaten during the melee, she added.
''The workers overwhelmed the police and factory guards,'' Lap said. ''Things went out of control, and we had to call in more police to restore order.''
The factory that makes sneakers for Nike Inc., will remain closed for the next three days for security concerns, said Nguyen Van Thua, a provincial trade union official.
Company officials declined to comment on the violence.
''We are encouraged by the labor union and the provincial government in helping to find a fair and timely resolution to the current work stoppage,'' George Lin, factory general manager said in a statement Wednesday.
Some employees interviewed by AP Television News, who declined to give their names for fear of losing their jobs, said the brawl started when a group of workers who disagreed with the deal began attacking those who came to work.
''Some workers switched off the electricity and they threw chairs at the other workers who tried to switch it on,'' one worker said.
The workers asked for a 20 percent bump to their US$59 (euro37) average monthly salaries along with better lunches at the company cafeteria. They were given a 10 percent raise and the company agreed to provide free lunches, Lin said in the statement.
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.
The Ching Luh plant has been operating since 2002. It is one of 10 factories that contact with Nike to produce sneakers in Vietnam, producing about 75 million pairs of shoes a year. The Ching Luh plant accounts for about 12 percent, Nike spokesman Chris Helzer said.
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