Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Lessons of Honda's strike

It will take sometime before we realize all the implications of the worker's strike at the Honda plant in Foshan. 
But it is definitely a turning point in the history of China's relations with its 'clients'. 
Interestingly, this article from Xinhua does not criticize the workers, but the question remains: till to which point can Beijing accept 'worker's' revolt against their unjust salaries and work conditions. It is a difficult question.

Honda's China plants halt production as workers strike for higher salaries
May 28 2010
The assembly plants of Japan's second-largest automaker Honda in China have been forced to halt production as workers at a parts maker went on strike demanding higher salaries.
Hundreds of workers, wearing white uniforms, red-and-white caps and even masks, rallied at the compound of Nanhai Honda Auto Parts Manufacturing Company in Foshan, southern Guangdong Province Thursday, asking for an increase of 800-1,000 yuan ($118-$147) in monthly pay.
"The salary for us Chinese employees is very low, only about 1,000 yuan a month. But Japanese staff can each earn 300 U.S. dollars a day, and their job is just to give us training," said a striking worker surnamed Ma.
Workers said the strike started on May 17 and more than 1,000 people have been involved.
The company had asked them to sign an agreement promising not to strike, but they rejected, Ma said.
"We are wearing masks because the company has used cameras to photograph or video us recently," he said.
Another worker surnamed He told Xinhua that some of them only earn 900 yuan a month -- lower than the standard minimum wage in Foshan.
"In our dorms, two workers have to share a single bed. In addition, we have our salary deducted by about 80 yuan per month for water and electricity fees," he said.
"The company has only agreed to increase our salaries by 300 yuan a month. But we will not resume work if they refuse to offer a rise of 800 yuan to 1,000 yuan," he said.
Due to the strike, another Honda plant in central Chinese city of Wuhan, the Dongfeng Honda Automobile Co, has suspended production as the supplies of gear-boxes came to a halt.
"When to resume production depends on when the supplies of the auto parts can be resumed," a company spokesman told Xinhua.
Thursday's strike came two days after Honda Motor President and Chief Executive Officer Takanobu Ito announced that the company plans to increase its manufacturing capacity in China by 36 percent by 2012, in a move that will expand the presence of Japan's second-largest automaker in the world's biggest auto market.
The move will raise Honda's production capacity in China to 830,000 vehicles by the end of 2012.
A factory operated by Guangqi Honda Automobile Co., a joint venture with Guangzhou Automobile Group Co., will double its capacity to 240,000 units by 2011.
A new factory operated by Dongfeng Honda Automobile Co, will begin operation soon.
The automaker, which currently can produce 610,000 vehicles in China, reported annual sales of 576,223 units last year, up 22.5 percent year on year.
But Honda's expansion plan does not mean good news for its Chinese employees, they said.
"Our work gets busier and busier as production increases, but our salary has almost remained unchanged over the recent years," said a striking worker surnamed Yang at the Foshan plant.

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