One of the first lessons Indian CEOs learn on moving to Chinese factory towns is how to manage and retain workers during the summer when the temperature hovers above 33 degrees Celsius, a daytime high not unusual in India.
In Jiaxing town near Shanghai, CEO R Premkumar is prepared to juggle production plans and abruptly shutdown his Sundram Fasteners plant for a day — on the local government’s order — if the temperature hits 40 degrees Celsius.
The Chinese can survive bone-chilling subzero winters in homes without central heating but the same hardy workers may walk out from assembly lines when the temperature crosses 33 to 35 degrees Celsius.
So at 2 pm when the temperature peaks on every summer day, the Chinese workers making nuts and bolts at Sundram Fasteners receive a cooling serving of free moong bean (green gram) soup.
“The soup is distributed as a precautionary measure to retain people,’’ Premkumar told the Hindustan Times.
“We are lucky that the temperature hasn’t touched 40 degrees Celsius,” adds Premkumar, though a 40-degree-day is almost the norm for his smaller Indian staff from the Chennai-based company.
This week, Beijing boiled on its hottest day since 50 years when the temperature hit 40.3 degrees on Monday.
The weather bureau released an orange alert, the second highest rating on a scale of red, orange, yellow and blue.
The heatwave spread to 16 provinces. In southern Guangzhou, the local government opened hundreds of air-conditioned heatwave shelters. Schools have stocked heat stroke pills and eased outdoor sports that rarely stop during winter. In zoos, the giant pandas are sleeping on ice.
In the little industrial town of Jiaxing, the workers are being offered cooling tablets to battle against heat stroke and free lunches because their home cooked meals don’t stay fresh. When the mercury rises higher, the lunch break will be doubled to an hour so the workers can grab a siesta.
The best summer perk was announced this week by the Beijing government which doubled a ‘heat cash allowance’ for outdoor workers, from a monthly minimum of 60 yuan (Rs 420) to 120 yuan (Rs 840).
The allowance was first started in 2007 and even employees working indoors in temperature above 33 degrees Celsius are eligible for some extra cash, with their allowance up from 45 yuan (Rs 315) to 90 yuan (Rs 630).