【英语中国】中国工厂挽留员工难度加大 China factory chiefs struggle to maintain worker loyalty

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2014-2-5 08:42

小艾摘要: As China prepared to usher in the Year of the Horse, Crystal Group, a garment manufacturer that produces clothes for retailers such as Abercrombie & Fitch and Mothercare, added a new task to its hol ...
China factory chiefs struggle to maintain worker loyalty
As China prepared to usher in the Year of the Horse, Crystal Group, a garment manufacturer that produces clothes for retailers such as Abercrombie & Fitch and Mothercare, added a new task to its holiday “to do” list.

Dennis Wong, executive director at Crystal, says it bought 9,000 return train tickets for migrant workers in Dongguan who wanted to return home for the lunar new year – the biggest holiday in the Chinese calendar – and also helped them buy snacks for the often long trip from Guangdong province to their towns and villages.

While workers receive a free trip, more importantly, they no longer have to queue – or go online as is increasingly common – to buy tickets. Crystal also gains as workers are less likely to leave Guangdong earlier to secure a train or bus seat for the biggest annual migration on earth.

“The whole programme is to attract them to stay as long as they can,” says Mr Wong, explaining that the company also boosts the amount it pays in efficiency bonuses by up to 8 per cent from November until the new year period.

Many factories across the Pearl River Delta, the manufacturing workshop of the world in Guangdong, are trying to find ways to keep workers. This has become more important as demographic changes – particularly the one-child policy and a government push to create jobs inland – have made staffing harder.

Melissa Tsui at Eagle, an electronics manufacturer in Dongguan, says workers get a bonus of Rmb100-Rmb1,000 for returning on time after new year. She says this has helped keep retention rates high – about 80 to 90 per cent – in contrast to some factories that can lose more than 30 per cent of their workforce over the holiday.

In another part of Dongguan, TAL, an apparel company that supplies Brooks Brothers and other retailers, tried to retain staff with a lucky draw. Any worker who stayed between November 15 and January 24 was eligible to win one of eight prizes of Rmb8,888 ($1,500), an auspicious number in Chinese as it suggests financial success.

Crystal will also hold a draw for Rmb9,999, another lucky number that signals longevity, in February to entice more workers to return. Mr Wong says that over the past five years, 98 per cent of workers have returned on the first day after the holiday. But he stresses that such measures are part of a year-long push.

“It is really like a package. More important is how you treat the workers during the year and not just Chinese new year,” says Mr Wong, adding that the company has introduced initiatives to “make them feel like it [Dongguan] is their second home”, including organising parties and day trips.

That echoes with Alan Cuddihy, head of sustainability at PCH. Thus the supply chain company in Shenzhen that works with clients such as Apple , has built a library with free WiFi, organises outings such as beach barbecues and issued discount cards at local businesses.

It has also set up a worker hotline. Mr Cuddihy says efforts have helped cut average monthly turnover from 31 per cent in 2012 to less than 10 per cent.

“Workers from different cities around China inevitably feel homesick, lonely and often change jobs when they don’t get to know anyone in the immediate area,” says Mr Cuddihy. “They are looking for more social work environments and communities?.?.?.?this is one of the main reasons for frequent job changes.”

But the world’s factories cannot simply rely on outings, returning bonuses and lucky draws. What workers want is better pay and benefits, says Geoff Crothall of China Labour Bulletin. While wages in Guangdong have posted double-digit rises in recent years, the minimum monthly wage in Shenzhen, the highest in China, is still only $300.

Gerhard Flatz, general manager at KTC, which makes skiwear in Guangdong, adds that measures such as returning bonuses are not sustainable solutions for retention issues.

“These kinds of tools are very similar to painkillers,” says Mr Flatz. “In the short term, they may help to repress the urgent symptoms to a certain degree, but?.?.?.?alone are likely to fail in solving or even addressing the actual root problem.”

马年春节前夕,为西方零售商Abercrombie & Fitch和Mothercare生产服装的晶苑集团(Crystal Group)在自己的节日“待办事项”清单上添加了一项新的任务。

晶苑集团执行董事Dennis Wong表示,集团为在东莞的外来务工人员购买了9000张往返火车票,让他们回家过年(春节是中国人一年里最重要的节日),同时还为他们购买了路上吃的干粮,因为从广东省到他们所在的城镇和村庄往往路途遥远。


“整个计划是为了吸引他们尽可能坚持到最后一天,”Dennis Wong表示。他解释说,从去年11月至新年期间,公司还将效率奖金提高了至多8%。


东莞电子制造商Eagle的Melissa Tsui表示,在春节后返厂工作的工人将得到100元至1000元人民币的奖金。她说,此举有助于保持较高的员工“回头率”,可达80%至90%;相比之下,一些工厂在节后可能失去原有员工队伍的30%以上。

在东莞的另一角,为布鲁克斯兄弟(Brooks Brothers)和其他零售商供货的服装公司TAL试图用抽奖活动来挽留员工。凡是在11月15日至1月24日坚持工作的工人,都有资格赢取八份价值8888元人民币(合1500美元)的大奖之中的一份;“八”在中文里一个吉祥的数字,因为它与“发财”谐音。

晶苑集团也将在2月份举行抽奖活动,奖金为9999元人民币,以吸引更多工人返厂;“九”是另一个幸运数字,寓意长寿。Dennis Wong介绍说,过去五年里,98%的工人在长假后的第一天返厂工作。但他强调,此类措施是全年努力的一部分。

“这就像是一份套餐。更重要的是你在全年中如何对待工人,而不仅是农历新年,”Dennis Wong表示。他补充说,该公司已推出包括组织派对和一日旅游在内的一系列措施,力求“让工人们觉得这(东莞)是自己的第二故乡”。

PCH公司的可持续发展主管Alan Cuddihy呼应了这种说法。为此,这家与苹果(Apple)等客户开展合作的深圳供应链公司建立了一家提供免费上网的图书馆,举办沙滩烧烤等户外活动,还发放当地商业的优惠卡。



但是,“世界工厂”不能单纯依赖郊游活动、返厂奖金及幸运抽奖。香港劳工组织“中国劳工通讯”(China Labour Bulletin)的Geoff Crothall表示,工人们真正想要的是更好的薪酬和福利。尽管广东的薪资水平近年以两位数的幅度逐年上涨,但即便是在中国薪资水平最高的深圳,最低月薪仍只有300美元。

在广东生产滑雪服的KTC公司的总经理Gerhard Flatz补充说,返厂奖金之类的措施,并不是留住员工的可持续解决方案。

“此类工具非常类似于止痛药,”Gerhard Flatz说。“在短期内,它们可能在一定程度上有助于抑制紧急症状,但……仅靠它们很可能无助于解决,甚至应对现实的根本问题。”


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