Garment Labor Contract to Be Renewd
From The World Journal
April 3, 2004

The first meeting was held recently on renewing the labor contract for another three years, which is crucial to Chinatown’s garment industry. Manufacturers are reviewing demands made by UNITE Local 23-25, which represents apparel workers. It’s the first time, however, for the contract to be renewed since the September 11th attacks battered the industry. Both employers and labor have softened their attitudes and approached the deal in a sincere and consensus-building manner.

May Ying Chen, Vice President of Local 23-25, said yesterday the negotiation is still in an initial stage and declined to elaborate on the new contract. But she emphasized that the demands made by the union are reasonable. The new deal ensures workers’ benefits, including healthcare, vacation and pensions, and protects their rights to complain to employers, Chen added. But she declined to say how much of a wage increase the union has asked for.

The September 11th attacks have sped up the decline of the garment industry. Last year, the SARS epidemic in Asia and the Iraq war further depressed the trade. Nearly half of Chinatown’s clothing factories have closed. The U.S. economic transition and the influx of overseas products have made local production even more fragile. Manufacturers have sustained losses, and the workforce has been shrinking from its once remarkable scale. Teddy Lai, Executive Director of Greater Blouse, Skirt and Undergarment Association, said yesterday factory owners have been worried not by a shrinking market, but by the loss of labor.

When asked about the new contract, Lai said he had just received the union’s demands and was talking with his attorneys. Though he declined to be specific, Lai said his association would treat the terms seriously. He promised to improve labor’s welfare but stressed a win-win solution.

Alice Ip, Local 23-25’s Community Liaison Director, said yesterday the first day of negotiation was peaceful and void of contention. Ip said she hoped neither side would be antagonistic and suggested they come up with a reasonable contract through calm consultation, which upholds labor’s benefits and ensures the industry’s stability and survival.

The original contract will run out on May 31st. If it were to be renewed for another three years, the new deal will come into effect in June and run through 2007.

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Translated from Chinese by Shasha Dai.

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