Protest Erupted in Front of German Furniture Component Brand Hettich’s Chinese Manufacturer

Online sources note that, from June 24 to June 25, dozens of workers gathered to protest in front of Hettich Furniture Hardware Components (Zhuhai) Co.,Ltd. (hereby Hettich Zhuhai), a manufacturer of furniture components located in Zhuhai, a Southern city of China. Workers were seen sitting on the curbside, obstructing the gate to the factory facility under rainy conditions to protest against the factory’s inadequate compensations following the Zhuhai facility’s relocation.

Screenshot taken from the social media post.

Accordingly, Zhuhai Hettich factory’s management made a decision to move the facility from Nanpin to a smaller town of Sanzao. After the decision, dozens of workers who have worked in the closing Nanpin facility for more than a decade refused to work in the new Sanzao facility for reasons such as long commutes. For these workers, Hettich Zhuhai offered a severance of 5,000 RMB (around USD 688), distributed in six months. Factory management put workers in question on a three-month vacation with basic monthly allowances (in most cases, such allowances are around 1,000 to 2,000 RMB, or around 150 to 300 USD). This was perceived as the factory management’s tactic to push workers to accept their compensation plans and move on to another position to sustain their living.  

Zhuhai, located in the southern province of Guangdong, is a major destination for traditional manufacturing facilities. In 1980, the Communist China first started its “market experiment” by implementing the concept of Special Economic Zones in its southeastern coastal regions, with Zhuhai being one of the five. However, in recent years, Zhuhai’s once bustling industrial activities experienced a downturn due to China’s economic slowdown and global trade pressures. Major industry players such as Canon are exiting, many factories have since closed. 

据中国媒体 Contract Law of 1995, employers must pay workers severance at a rate of one month’s salary for each year of service in the position, with a cap of 12 years (or the amount of 12 months’ salary in severance). Hettich Zhuhai’s management’s conduct, according to the workers, is reportedly illegal in China. 

Hettich Zhuhai is a manufacturing company registered with the Zhuhai Municipal department for industry and commerce in 1995, producing furniture hardware components such as drawer slides, door latch, and spring door stops. It is a Chinese subsidiaryHettich Holding, a privately held German company with a turnover of 1.3 Euro in 2023. Founded in 1888, Hettich claims to be one of the world’s largest manufacturers of furniture fittings. 

Workers’ protest in Hettich Zhuhai is but one of many in an increasingly hostile market environment. As China’s relations with the western world continue to freeze, global investors have taken cautions and withdrawn from the Chinese market, leading to trouble in the Chinese economy. Factory closures, wage deductions, prolonged vacations, and other cost-cutting measures ensued in the manufacturing sector, affecting the country’s millions of migrant workers’ livelihood. Little is known about the precise reasoning behind Hettich Zhuhai’s relocation, but its treatment of loyal employees appears to the public as another instance of business interest trumping employee welfare.