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Trade union: Paper plant is not a sweat shop
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A paper recycling plant controlled by one of the richest women on the Chinese mainland needs to treat its workers better, a Guangdong Province trade union said after the company had been accused of running a "sweat shop" by a Hong Kong-based non-government organization.

Hong Kong-listed Nine Dragons Paper (Holdings) Lt reportedly encouraged its workers to work overtime for better pay and punished workers with fines, the Guangdong Provincial Trade Union said.

The union denied a Students and Scholars against Corporate Misbehavior report that condemned Nine Dragons and four other Hong Kong funded companies as "sweat shops," which made headlines nationwide. The report was published on April 12.

A report by the trade union said most workers at the Dongguan-based company's workshop were paid 2,000 yuan to 5,000 yuan per month, much higher than the city's average wage of 960 yuan a month. However, they earned the bulk of their income by working overtime, as the basic salary for front line workers is 900 yuan.

Nearly 5,000 of 7,408 factory employees were fined up to 1.07 million yuan last year, the report said. Two workers were killed and 49 others injured in 51 accidents last year, according to the trade union's report.

The report said the company needs to improve its management, but denied SACOM's "sweat shop" accusation.

SACOM monitors "sweat-shop" enterprises with its members at local universities.

Nine Dragons was founded and controlled by Zhang Yin, one of the richest women in China.

The company raised almost US$500 million in an initial public offering in March 2006 on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. The stock had nearly tripled in value by the end of 2006. With plans to invest US$800 million and more than double production capacity by 2009, the company could soon become Asia's biggest maker of packaging paper.

(Shanghai Daily May 27, 2008)

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