Chinese Employees are Going for More Frequent Walks

Monday, July 19, 2010 1:43
Comments Off on Chinese Employees are Going for More Frequent Walks

The last few months have been filled with labor issues, and while the Foxconn issues received perhaps the most coverage, the recent Reuters Factbox: China Labor Strikes led me to ask one of my interns to see what else she could find in a couple hours on the internet… and it was clear that beyond 10-12 that Reuters was able to find (logos above), there has been a lot more action lately, activity not contained to a single industry, or specific to foreign firms.

Here is a sample list of events from a single blog post:

April 29th –May: Nikon gas-poison scare spurs protests.( further info: Local media reports said more than 50 workers at Nikon Imaging (China) Co’s Wuxi plant have taken ill since late April, complaining of nausea and vomiting from the apparent release of sulfur dioxide in the area.)

May 1st -4th : workers from Wantai Group (Zaozhuang, Shandong) held a strike to protest low pay and corruption.

May 4th : workers from XinsuRedian Co., Ltd held a strike to protest low pay

May 5th -11th : workers from Plastic Factory in Shenzhen went on strike for overtimes hours and low pay

May 12th: workers from Sinopec Yizheng Chemical Fibre Company Limited went on a stay-down strike for more than 15 days.

May 14th – June 1st: In the factory town of Pingdingshan, China workers at the textile factory have staged a strike over wages and pension compensation

May 17th :Workers from Honda South China Sea went on strike for better pay and better working condition.

May 19th -21st : hundreds of worker from Kunshan Jingang State-owned enterprises demonstrated to protest the transformation of enterprise

May 19th -21st : workers from Suzhou Weixun Electronics Co. Ltd held a 3-day strike because of the Conflict Between Employer and Employees

May 18th -21st : about 10,000 workers from Datong Xinghuo pharmaceutical factory (Shanxi) participated in a protest against the local government for low price buyouts( 15,000 RMB/person)

May 23rd: Chongqing Qijiang gear company, the death of a worker from over fatigue causes workers strike.

May 25th : Drivers from Taxi Co.Ltd in Humen Town, Dongguan City held a strike to protest entrapment

May 26th : workers from The Shanghai plant of SHARP went on strike for higher wages

May 27th : Taxi-drivers from Honghe Prefecture of Yunnan Province went on strike for higher wages.

May 27th : over 200 workers from Beijing Gloria Plaza Hotel went on strike for better pay

May 28th : workers from Beijing Xingyu Motors Corp l went on strike for better pay

May 28th : about 2,000 workers from Lanzhou Vinylon Plant went on strike for higher wages

May 30th : About 100 Taxi-drivers from Taxi Co.Ltd in Changping Town, Dongguan City participated in a protest against ‘illegal’ taxi drivers

May 31st : Workers from Wuhan Huarun brewery Co. Ltd went on strike for the compensation of status transformation from workers of general original state-owned enterprise to joint venture enterprise.

June 2nd -5th : Workers from Halong Electronics Co. Ltd in Xiamen went on strike for higher wages.

June 3rd : Workers at Shekou Port In Shenzhen went on a strike against the low pay

Jun 3rd -10th : Workers from Shanxi Brother Sewing Machine Company went on a strike against the low pay and poor working condition.

June 5th: About 2000 workers from Meilv Electronics Co. Ltd in Shenzhen went on a strike against Labor conflict.

June 5th: About 400 workers in Xieshu Group in Suizhou, Hubei

June 5th -7th: workers from Jiangsu Nantong Capacitor Factory went on strike for 3 days to protest against overtime hours and low pay.

June 6th -7th: Over 2,000 workers from Yacheng Electronics Factory in Huizhou went on strike against the low pay and overtime hours.

June 7th: 7,000 workers from Jiujiang Simaibo Sports Equipment company in Jiangxi held a strike and led to Riot.

June 7th: Workers from KOK Shuyuan Machinery Factory in Kunshan, Jiangsu went on strike against overtime work, poor environment and low pay and so on.

June 7th: Workers at Honda Foshan plant go on strike again over low wages

June 8th -10th: 500 workers from Mechanical Lab Engineer-Zhuhai—the competition of Fuxconn—went on a strike for higher wages.

June 9th: Guli Lock Factory in Zhongshan (one of the Suppliers of Honda went on a strike because of the Conflict Between Employer and Employees)

June 9th: In the Yangtze River Delta, 2,000 workers at a Taiwanese computer parts plant walked off their jobs in Shanghai’s Pudong district.

June 10th: About 2,000 workers from Tongbao Optical Co., Ltd. In Shanghai went on a strike because of the Conflict Between Employer and Employees

What do these events mean? Is there a hidden trend that foreign firms should be aware of, planning for, or taking action against? There are plenty of opinions already out there, opinions that tend to end up with a “China ain’t cheap anymore” angle. But, I have my reservations that this is really anything new, or is it the sign of “Cheaply Made in China” is gone.

A few things that I feel catalyzed the recent events:

  1. Workers, who clearly were unhappy about conditions at their factory, began seeing the tide change in terms of media coverage, government support, and likelihood that a raise could result from taking a walk
  2. China is a developing economy, and one of the developments is that wages will rise in some areas, that workers will have higher expectations, and that employers will eventually have to pony up… one way or another.

More broadly though, and thinking back to a pitch I gave several years ago about the pressures foreign firms would face in China, for years the average Chinese was happy to look past some of the downsides of rampant economic growth as they reached for their slice of the pie. things were going good, and regardless of whether or not the lake was covered in algae blooms, there was no reason to rock the boat. But, as we perhaps began seeing 3 years ago with the Lake Tai algae blooms, there is something happening below the water to suggest that the average citizen now has much higher expectations and a greater sense of self worth that is going to add to the pressures that firms (foreign and domestic) face in China.

Which may, and there is already supporting evidence, lead to a movement in industries, consolidations, and automation. Movements that will certainly add a bump to the China price, but while investments may shift around, China will still continue to have the best game in town.

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