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China stir could spur broader demands

autos Updated: Jun 14, 2010 21:38 IST
Reuters
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A strike at a Honda Motor parts supplier in China could augur broader demands across China’s vast manufacturing belt as workers seek a bigger piece of the nation’s growing economic wealth.

About 100 workers wearing white overalls and blue caps milled about the factory grounds of the Honda Lock plant, a supplier of locks to Honda’s car-making operations in China, on Monday after many of the 1,500 workers walked off the job on Wednesday. The standoff was relatively calm, in contrast to last week when hundreds gathered outside the gates and riot police briefly kept workers from leaving.

The strike is the latest in a series to hit factories around southern China’s Pearl River Delta and a few other regions by workers demanding a greater piece of China’s growing economic pie.

The outburst of strikes continues a pattern of recent years that took a pause at the height of the global financial crisis, said Liu Kaiming, executive director fo the Institute of Contemporary Observation, a privately funded group in Shenzhen that focuses on labour issues.

“We’ve already seen a growing number of strikes in previous years, especially in 2007 and 2008, when the new labour contract law was introduced, and then there was a gap in 2009, but now we’re seeing the trend resume,” Liu said.

“The Honda strike is an extension of that... It also shows that there is a trend that is being driven by a new generation of migrant workers. They are more willing to speak out about their grievances, and are less tolerant of long hours and tough conditions than the older generation,” he said.

The strike at Honda Lock was the third to hit a Honda parts supplier in China in the last few weeks. The other two, at suppliers producing transmissions and exhausts, were settled after employees received wage increases.

Management at Honda Lock has offered a pay increase of 100 yuan ($15) in additional wages and another 100 yuan in allowances, but some employees at the plant said that is not enough.

“I’m more optimistic now we'll get more of a wage rise,” said one worker. “They urged us to resume work for the next few days and some assembly lines are working again.”

Stories of intimidation of holdout strikers, including a campaign to hire replacements, were also circulating, but they could not immediately be independently confirmed. Reuters

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