Foshan factory strike enters fourth day

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 July, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 July, 2010, 12:00am

A strike by about 180 workers at a Foshan factory that supplies parts for Honda cars entered its fourth day yesterday in the latest stoppage by workers demanding a bigger piece of the country's growing economic wealth.

The strike, at Atsumitec Auto Parts in the city's Nanhai district, began on Monday afternoon, after management announced changes to workers' shifts that would cut their overtime hours and increase their workload, according to a 30-year-old worker who said he was one of the strike organisers.

Since May, both Honda, Japan's second-largest carmaker, and Toyota, its largest, have been hit by a slew of strikes over pay mainly at their parts suppliers in China. The auto giants subsequently raised pay levels.

Local mainland media have been banned from covering any strikes as the authorities fear more workers may follow suit. The recent wave of labour disputes has highlighted a broader demand for wage increases among mainland workers.

In Foshan, the strike organiser, who refused to be identified for fear of retribution, said the changes in their work hours would cut their overtime pay, on which they rely heavily, as the basic salary is 1,070 yuan (HK$1,226) per month.

Attempts to negotiate with the management on Monday failed, triggering the strike just before 4pm. Workers have demanded an extra 500 yuan on top of their basic monthly salary.

Eight workers had been chosen to represent 205 staff members in the factory in negotiations with the management. Among those participating in the strike were front-line workers and division heads, the organiser said.

The factory's management threatened to fire 90 front-line workers on Wednesday if they did not return to work, he added.

'We were told to return to work immediately, or it would be easy for the company to have us all replaced in no time because there were so few of us. These harsh words hurt our feelings and reflected the management's lack of sincerity,' he said.

'All of us have reached a consensus that if the company sacks any one of us, we will all walk out and quit immediately. We will also seek legal means to protect our rights.'

He added that the company had refused to provide lunch on Tuesday and Wednesday, making the workers angrier.

A Beijing spokesman for Honda said production today at the two Chinese assembly plants in Zengcheng and Huangpu districts, both in Guangzhou, would not be affected by the strike, even though production at these two plants had previously been halted by unrest at Honda's key parts supplier factories.

Last week, dozens of workers at exporting plant Honda Automobile (China) Co downed tools in Guangzhou demanding pay rises, which led to a halt in production. The strike has been settled, but details of the deal were not disclosed. The plant solely produces compact model Jazz cars for export to European markets.

Honda Motor's mainland sales in June fell 2.7 per cent from last year's June figure of 51,497, to 50,113. Honda was hit by strikes at key suppliers after achieving record production in April, forcing it to halt output at several of its mainland factories. The conflicts with workers over pay caused critical delays to the company's 'just-in-time' delivery system as factories ran short of key parts.