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Fri, Jul 09, 2004 - Page 12 News List

Beijing factories ordered to take breaks


About 6,400 factories in and around Beijing began taking staggered one-week breaks yesterday due to China's worst power crunch in two decades, government and industry officials said.

The breaks will run until the end of next month when the factories, mostly state-owned enterprises with an eight-hour working day, come back online.

Officials did not specify the factories involved.

The Beijing city government had ruled that the workers could take a week off with pay. But they would have to work overtime -- six days a week instead of the current five -- in September when demand for power eases, they said.

"We will definitely implement the government's order. But as the market demand is not that strong at the moment, we are happy for the chance to take a rest," said one official with auto maker Beijing Jeep Corp.

Many regions in China are suffering tight power supplies this summer as the country faces its most severe power shortage since the 1980s. The government has given energy conservation top billing in its long-term energy outlook.

There is expected to be a shortfall of 1.2 million kilowatts in Beijing alone this summer.

Hotels in Beijing have been told to do laundry only at night and to make staff use the stairs to get to floors below the fifth, the Beijing Morning Post reported.

Electricity use in both Shanghai and Beijing had hit one-day record highs in the past month as heat-waves started earlier.

Thousands of workers in Shang-hai have also been told to take staggered one-week holidays for a month from the middle of this month. Offices, malls and hotels in Shanghai have been told to keep temperature dials above 26?C.

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