Staff training and management in South Sea Textile Manufacturing Company

At South Sea Textile Manufacturing Company, Chi Woo Wha, as an apprentice, learned welding, electrical works and repair and maintenance of textile machinery. When Central Textiles moved its operation, Chi Woo Wha had helped in installing spinning looms. He left the company after completing the installation work because there were no vacancies in either Central Textiles’ spinning or weaving factories. South Sea Textile Manufacturing Company initially ran a spinning factory, and later opened a weaving factory. Chi Woo Wha had finished apprenticeship at both spinning and weaving mills, but he was more familiar with weaving machines. Therefore, he helped Central Textiles’ spinning factory to install the machinery while keeping his day time employment with South Sea. When Central Textiles’ weaving factory resumed operation after relocation, Chi Woo Wha came along to help outside his regular working hours at South Sea. However, his full-time employer was not happy to learn that Chi Woo Wha was also working at Central Textiles and stopped him from doing so. Tse Tak Leung, Central Textiles’ spinning factory manager, successfully convinced Chi Woo Wha to leave South Sea and to work under him. Chi Woo Wha accepted Tse Tak Leung’s offer because Tse was a former engineer at South Sea Textile Manufacturing and the two workmates used to be on good terms. Chi Woo Wha also thought that as a new operation, Central Textiles’ spinning factory promised better prospects for promotion. Chi Woo Wha was employed as an apprentice in the weaving department of South Sea, and promoted to technician after the two years’ apprenticeship. After he left Central Textiles’ spinning factory, Chi Woo Wha moved on to work for South Asia Textiles in To Kwa Wan as an operation officer, arranged by Tse Tak Leung. While there, he was involved in the management and scheduling of the production department. This position was similar to an engineer at a large factory.

The premise of South Sea Textile Manufacturing Company was very spacious. The company offered training on textile technology and English. The company also provided tutorial classes for female workers to learn sewing and knitting. Back in those days, workers were allowed to go out once a week. The rest of the time, everyone spent their after work hours in the factory’s school, canteen, playground and library. At that time, South Sea was situated at the area which is now the Belvedere Garden (i.e. 9½ Milestone on Castle Peak Road in Tsuen Wan). The factory’s owner was Tang Sing Hoi, who is also remembered for founding the Community Chest.

Many spinning factories were located near the spinning mills of South Sea Textile Manufacturing Company. Central Textiles’ spinning factory was next to The Textile Corporation of Hong Kong. Next to South Sea Textile, there were also The Textile Corporation of Hong Kong, South Textiles and Hong Kong Woollen Knitting Factory. Today, Central Textiles’ weaving factory is situated in Kong Nam Industrial Building, which was formerly the premise of South Textiles.

The life and wages of South Sea textiles workers at that time. As it had to use intensive labour to work for shifts round the clock, South Sea Textile Manufacturing Company insisted that all of its 1,000 or so workers lived in the dormitory inside the factory premise. As the spinning machines at that time were not efficient, it relied on intensive labour to keep up the productivity. Initially workers worked for 12 hours per shift. It was changed to 8 hours and 3 shifts in a day later on. The factory also had its own clinic manned with nurses on three shifts a day, plus a private doctor who came for consultations once a week. The typical wage for apprentices here was only $1 per day and apprentices also had to sign a two-year’s training contract. The daily wages for ordinary workers and technicians were between $4 to $5 and $6 to $7 respectively, whereas the monthly salary for supervisors was $300-$400. As far as the prices of commodities back then were concerned, newspapers were sold at 10 cents and a bottle of coke cost 30 cents.

Back then, Central Textiles’ spinning’s facility was smaller in scale than the set up at South Textiles and Shanghai Textiles. Central Textiles’ spinning factory offered workers a dormitory which was outside the factory premise. It had similar management style as that in South Sea Textile, such as the ways of job arrangement, management of machines and equipment, and the allocation of workshop spaces. South Sea Textile was better equipped and used more advanced machines. In the 1980s, South Sea Textile was finally closed down because its owners did not have a successor to continue the business. Chi Woo Wha heard that the factory premise was sold to Amoy Food.

Company Central Textiles (H.K.) Ltd.
Subject Industry
Duration 15m15s
Language Cantonese
Material Type
Source Hong Kong Memory Project Oral History Interview
Repository Hong Kong Memory Project
Note to Copyright Copyright owned by Hong Kong Memory Project
Accession No. AY-CWW-SEG-002
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