If Your Workers Are Angry at the End of Feb, Here is Why

Monday, January 28, 2008 8:46
Posted in category Uncategorized

Snow.. and lot’s of it.

Usually, I don’t make a big deal about the weather, but something is going on. Shanghai has had 3 full days of sleet and snow.. and while the snow is nice and reminds me a bit of home, it is reeking havoc all over China.

The biggest issue right now. The train station has stopped selling tickets for the New Year.

Now, perhaps that doesn’t mean much to anyone outside of China, but the New Year in China is like Christmas, New Year, Fourth of July, Labor Day, and Memorial day all wrapped up into thanksgiving. It is typically the only time of year the 400 million migrants working away from home are able to return..

So, as seen in these clips by AP and Al Jazerrra, when the snow rolled in and the lights went out (power shortages have been a problem before the snow), it left some 150,000 people at one train station a bit frustrated.

So, if you are one of the fortunate ones who have a plane ticket out of town, and you come back to see a few of your line workers are a little less than enthused to see your farmer tan, you’ll know why.

My suggestion. Give them a few extra days off, and if you have a small staff, maybe offer to buy them a plane ticket home. They’ll love you forever

[youtube width=”425″ height=”335″]http://youtube.com/watch?v=JUCLbYj7n3c[/youtube]

[youtube width=”425″ height=”335″]http://youtube.com/watch?v=wz-ldLsfglw[/youtube]

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11 Responses to “If Your Workers Are Angry at the End of Feb, Here is Why”

  1. John Guise says:

    January 28th, 2008 at 6:56 pm

    Hi Rich

    I agree with you on this. I am flying Guangzhou on Saturday to spend the New Year with my girlfriend and her family. She went down last weekend (for an extended vacation) and is telling me that the city’s train station is a madhouse.

    I’m happy I have a plane ticket out of town but I do hope that there are no major delays at the airport by the weekend.


  2. Rich says:

    January 28th, 2008 at 11:31 pm

    Hey John

    How is everything? Been a while since we have seen you… hope it is not because you disagree with me on everything else!

    I have not heard of any delays, but here is another reason why we (including our employees) may not be to excited about the effect of the weather.

    China weather crisis may lift January inflation

    Hope all is well and have a good trip


  3. John Guise says:

    January 29th, 2008 at 6:50 pm

    Hi Rich

    I haven’t commented in a while cause I’ve been really busy. I’ve agreed with a lot of what you written.

    As for delays I haven’t heard of much when it comes to planes, but I am a compulsive worrier, particularly when it comes to air transport in China, so I’ve got my fingers crossed.

    Inflation is really going to be the long-term fall out from this crisis. Like the transportation problems, the inflation was probably going to rear its ugly head now anyway, but the weather just made it worse.

    Have a good holiday.

  4. Rich says:

    January 29th, 2008 at 7:08 pm


    You have every right to worry about traveling (especially by plane). actually prefer train as that typically sticks to schedule….

    Had our round table on inflation last night, and the notes are going up soon. A really interesting discussion that meandered for nearly 3 hours…

    Glad all is well and keeping you busy.

    Safe travels.

  5. Rich says:

    January 29th, 2008 at 7:39 pm

    Just heard that China is in for more storms over the weekend, and I think this China Daily article about sums it up

    Postponing the holiday. interesting idea, but I think that would be a little like postponing Christmas.

    Extending holidays. I think that is a given. I am sure that after the holiday we will hear that it is difficult getting people back to the coast as (1) people were late leaving and (2) tickets will be hard to come by.

    If I were you (and you are an exporter), I would build a safety stock.

  6. John Guise says:

    January 29th, 2008 at 8:38 pm

    Thanks for comments Rich. Looking forward to the inflation notes.

    Here’s hoping snow doesn’t delay me too much this weekend — I’ve got one of the first flights of the day so that helps.


  7. Min Guo says:

    January 30th, 2008 at 3:44 am

    Rick, it is very nice of you to say the “request” for the workers.(I am a native Chinese.) My sister in Guangzhou told me that one couple worked in the factory of her company WALKED home after the bus they took was blocked on the road because of the snow. They were supposed to go home to get married. They walked one day and one night, and yes, they arrived home and got married on the schedule good luck date.

    We are planning a trip to Huangshan from Shanghai in CNY. hope the snow will stop by then.

    Have a good holiday!

  8. Rich says:

    January 30th, 2008 at 4:27 am

    Hi Min Guo,

    I am glad to hear that the couple made it home, and I am sure we are going to hear a number of other stories soon. I have heard from someone that their colleague has been stuck on a train for the last 4 days.

    The worst news I found so far is coming from Guizhou province (one of China’s poorest) where Guizhou declares blackout emergency

    According to the article:

    GUIZHOU Province last night declared a top-level emergency as most areas in the province are without electricity after the power network was severely damaged during the worst snowstorm in five decades.

    A total of 3,895 electricity lines had been damaged by yesterday while 472 power plants across the province have been paralyzed since the blizzards rampaged central, eastern and southern China starting on January 13, the provincial government told a news conference at 9pm yesterday, Xinhua news agency reported today.

    I did a quick google, and there are around 35 million people in that province….

  9. John Guise says:

    February 3rd, 2008 at 12:37 am

    Hey Rich

    Just wanted to let you know that I was one of the lucky few to get a flight out of Shanghai yesterday. I made it down to Guangzhou safely after a two-and-a-half-hour delay. It’s colder than normal here but it is not snowing.

    Unf\ortunately, I can’t say that many of the migrant workers here are as luck as I. As my bus from the airport neared the central train station, I saw many of them still walking to the station in the final attempt to get home. I’m on my way to Hong Kong tomorrow by train, but I don’t expect much in the way of delays.

    Enjoy the rest of your holiday.

  10. Rich says:

    February 3rd, 2008 at 10:53 pm

    Hey John,

    Good to hear you were able to make it back to GZ.

    I have heard that the crowds are moving slowly now (500,000 people have found a seat on a train according to CNN).

    How was the train to HK?

  11. Rich says:

    February 12th, 2008 at 5:12 pm

    A very interesting piece of analysis at Primezero in their piece Another Recessionary Chain Reaction Begins As Chinese Migrant Workers May Not Return To Factories After Chinese New Year Holiday

    In their opinion, there are 4 reasons why your people may not return.

    1. Stagnant wages are not meeting inflationary needs in the big cities. It may be cheaper to stay at home to raise pigs and chickens and grow wheat (which is is short supply).

    2. Workers in Southern China have been on strike for several weeks and may not want to return to uncooperative factory management, in light of China’s new labor law.

    3. Middle class people in Southern China are competing with working class people from Hong Kong and Macau for the same resources (food, water, medicine, housing).

    4. Lack of production on the mainland will devastate Hong Kong consumers. Lack of factory/vendor investment will not attract the migrant workers back to the factories. Why?Everyone is playing the stock market.Students are dropping out of school to play stock market. Grandparents are playing the stock market. Parents are playing the stock market.This is an unusually high exposure to “market conditions”, which at some point will decline disorderly when investments banks begin to stop lending money — period. Food is the only thing “produced” in Hong Kong, … well actually it is processed.