Thursday, 10 June 2010

Chinese workers are rebelling

CHINESE workers are rebelling against slave labour conditions in the rapidly industrialising state, report AFP and Angry News from Around the World.

Dozens of striking workers have been hurt in clashes with police in China as a fresh labour stoppage again halted Honda's production Wednesday, in the latest unrest to rock the "workshop of the world".

The latest labour action, which came after a spate of suicides at Taiwanese high-tech firm Foxconn, again drew attention to difficult conditions and low pay faced by millions of Chinese factory workers.

The clashes on Monday at a Taiwan-funded rubber factory in the eastern province of Jiangsu marked the first time in recent days that disputes over salaries erupted in violence, with state media saying 50 workers were hurt.

Some 2,000 workers at the KOK Machinery factory in the city of Kunshan outside Shanghai walked off the assembly line, demanding better pay and an improved working environment, the China Daily reported.

The injuries occurred when security forces tried to prevent the workers from taking their strike into the streets, the report said.

Photos of the incident showed police and special security forces massed outside the gates of the facility, preventing workers from exiting.

The paper said 50 workers were injured, five of them seriously.

"The police beat us indiscriminately. They kicked and stomped on everybody, no matter whether they were male or female," one female worker told the South China Morning Post, which said at least 30 people were arrested.

Workers were asking for hardship pay to compensate them for working in high temperatures, full workers' insurance, housing subsidies and a change to make work on Saturdays voluntary, according to postings seen in Chinese chatrooms.

Some of those postings were later deleted.

"We have to work in temperatures of 40 to 50 degrees Celsius (104 to 122 degrees Fahrenheit). They refuse to do anything about the heat," one worker told the Hong Kong-based Post.

"The smell from the rubber is unbearable, but we don't even get a toxic fumes subsidy."

Geoff Crothall of the Hong Kong-based China Labour Bulletin linked the upsurge in labour strife to the general economic recovery, saying workers were less inclined to accept low pay, and facing long hours as orders picked up.

"We are finding in the last few years, particularly since the labour contract law in 2008, workers are more aware of their rights and more willing to stand up for their rights," Crothall told AFP.

"Workers just want to work somewhere that is not oppressive and is decent," he noted.

"I think labour activism in China comes in waves, but over the last few years, there's been an increase in the intensity and frequency of these waves."

Foxconn -- which counts Apple, Sony and Hewlett-Packard among its clients -- has agreed to a 67 percent pay hike for its hundreds of thousands of workers in China after 11 of them committed suicide, 10 in the southern city of Shenzhen.

Its parent company Hon Hai Precision Industry lost more than three billion US dollars in market value in two days this week as investors fretted over the pay increases.

Japan's number two automaker Honda Motor is reeling from more than a week of work stoppages in China -- first at its parts unit in Foshan, and then at an exhaust parts maker owned by a subsidiary -- that have disrupted production.

The first strike was resolved when Honda agreed to a 24 percent pay rise.

The second, at a joint venture factory in Foshan of Honda subsidiary Yutaka Giken and a Taiwanese firm, was ongoing Wednesday, forcing Honda to close two of its China assembly plants run by Guangqi Honda.