Workers refuse to back down
Will Clem in Shanghai and Fiona Tam
A wave of strikes in the Pearl River and Yangtze River deltas over pay and compensation gathered momentum yesterday.
The increasing regularity of walkouts in the industrial heartlands is a sign of rising labour tensions as an ever more combative workforce faces off against employers battling the effects of a global slowdown.
Police clashed with strikers at a factory in Shanghai, detaining at least 10 picketers, as the plant's Singaporean owners adopted a hardline approach in a bid to break a deadlock on its seventh day.
'We arrived at the factory at 6am, but the gates were locked and we were not allowed in,' said a woman on strike from the Hi-P International electronics plant. 'There were about 200 police there and they wouldn't let us protest. Lots of workers were taken away.'
She said workers were taking their case to the municipal government, as they believed they had been fired for participating in the strike. The walkout started last Wednesday in protest at plans to relocate the factory to the outskirts of Shanghai. Some 200 workers who are unwilling to move are demanding compensation.
A Singapore-based Hi-P spokesman confirmed the police had broken up the picket line but was unable to clarify whether they had been acting independently or at the firm's request. 'No workers have been terminated,' the spokesman said. 'The information that I have is that the factory has resumed operations. A notice has been sent out to all workers telling them they should return to work within three days. If not, they will be terminated.'
He said that most of the 4,000-strong workforce had accepted the move and 'only a very small proportion' was involved in the strike.
In nearby Taicang , Jiangsu province, there have been reports of an ongoing strike at an electronics plant of KOA Electronics, a Japanese firm. The strike occurred after a Japanese manager had allegedly abused a Chinese worker verbally late last month. The firm was unavailable for comment.
In Shekou, an industrial zone in the Nanshan district of Shenzhen, more than 1,000 assembly workers continued to strike for a sixth day yesterday, mainland media reported.
Hundreds of workers have been blocking the factory's main gate since Thursday after their employer, Topsearch Industries, a Hong Kong-listed circuit board maker, decided to relocate production lines to Shaoguan , in a more remote part of Guangdong. However, the firm failed to provide satisfactory compensation to workers who refused to relocate.
The picketers have been holding banners with slogans such as 'Topsearch is a sweatshop, [we] earnestly request the government to uphold justice and migrant workers' rights' and 'Return the decades of youth to me, [the company has] threatened and swindled workers over a long period of time'.
Two Topsearch clerks said yesterday that the strike was continuing and that Shenzhen labour officials had arrived at the factory for mediation. Police were dispatched to prevent unrest triggered by the strike.
'Our managers can't speak to you as all of them are attending a meeting to resolve the strike,' a woman worker said.
The media quoted workers as saying that they were forced to relocate to the Shaoguan factory and that those who refused to move had not been offered reasonable compensation. 'The firm didn't pay enough social insurance according to law and forced us to take no-pay leave during the low season and work overtime in the peak season,' a worker said.
Third-quarter earnings of Hi-P International fell by this percentage to HK$39 million amid an 8.1 per cent rise in revenue