2010 Chinese labour unrest
The 2010 Chinese labour unrest refers to a series of labour disputes, strike actions, and protests in the south of the People's Republic of China that saw striking workers successfully receive higher pay packages.
Among the incidents were a string of employee suicides at Taiwan-owned electronics manufacturer Foxconn and strike actions at Honda factories in Guangdong province, both of which resulted in wage increases.
The Economist stated that wages were merely rising to make up for lost ground due to wage freezes, and China's inflationary monetary environment at the time made regular pay rises a necessity for workers concerned with maintaining a high quality of life. Reuters quoted Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda, as saying, "this has both good and bad elements. A wage increase is not necessarily bad if properly managed. The experience of the past 100 years shows that auto workers become auto consumers also."
In 2009 Sun Danyong, an employee of electronics manufacturer Foxconn Technology Group, committed suicide. Reports emerged of questionable labour practices at Foxconn factories, and a number of other suicides occurred in 2010. Foxconn announced that workers with a monthly wage of 900 RMB ($131.77 at the time) would immediately receive a 30% increase, to 1200 RMB, with a spokesman stating that "It’s been a while since we increased wages, hence the decision."
Starting 17 May, a prolonged strike at a Honda automobile parts factory resulted in suspension of operations at all four of Honda's Chinese production bases, which are located in Guangdong and Hubei provinces. The high-profile strike was covered in domestic and international media.
Honda is believed to have lost 3 billion yuan in sales as a result.
According to The New York Times after initial nationwide coverage of the strikes, domestic media coverage was swiftly curtailed. Restrictions on the local, Chinese press were also reported by The Financial Times.
Technology aids strikers
The New York Times mentioned the use of technology by striking workers in one article. Detailed accounts of strikes were posted online by the strikers hours after they began, and videos were uploaded by the strikers showing confrontations between management and employees. Striking workers avoided using popular online networking tool QQ in favour of text messaging to escape the scrutiny of government internet censors who regularly monitor the site. Online forums were used to share strategies and grievances.
Economic policy implications
China is considering taking policy steps to double average wages over the five years from 2011, and several Chinese provinces raised the legal minimum wage. State media also stated that higher wages will help boost domestic consumption and help move China away from a reliance on exports for growth towards an economy more driven by domestic consumption.
Strikes are not new in China. Chinese authorities have long tolerated limited, local protests by workers unhappy over wages or other issues. The Pearl River Delta alone has up to 10,000 labor disputes each year. In the spring of 2008, a local union official described strikes as “as natural as arguments between a husband and wife.” The Chinese government sought balance on the issue; while it has recently repeated calls for increased domestic consumption through wage increases and regulations, it is also aware that labour unrest could cause political instability.
In response to the string of employee suicides at Foxconn, Guangdong CPC chief Wang Yang called on companies to improve their treatment of workers. Wang said that "economic growth should be people-oriented." As the strikes intensified, Wang went further by calling for more effective negotiations mechanisms, particularly the reform of existing trade unions. At the same time, authorities began shutting down some websites reporting on the labour incidents, and have restricted reporting, particularly on strikes occurring at domestic-owned factories. Guangdong province also announced plans to "professionalize union staff" by taking union representatives off of company payroll to ensure their independence from management influence.
On 14 June, Premier Wen Jiabao visited construction workers on Beijing Subway's Line 6. Wen said to the workers: "Your work is glorious and should be respected by society at large. Migrant workers should be cared for, protected and respected, especially the younger generation of them [...] The government and the public should be treating the young migrant workers like their own children." A day later, without mention of strikes, People's Daily released an editorial that warned the country's manufacturing model could be at a turning point and urged employers to raise salaries. In addition, the party's official newspaper said that China's development model should look towards creating more service-sector jobs and increasing domestic consumption.
List of labour incidents
The following is a list of cases; the list is not complete.
|Site of unrest||Owner origin||Factory location||Event||Resolution|
|Foxconn||Taiwan||Shenzhen Guangdong||Numerous suicides. Protests follow in Shenzhen and Hong Kong||Management offers pay raises of some 30% to 2000 yuan/month in Shenzhen plant, similar raises elsewhere "according to local conditions".|
|Honda Lock||Japan||Xiaolan Zhongshan Guangdong||Protest||Workers return after management offers review of salaries.|
|Honda Foshan Fengfu auto parts||Japan||Foshan Guangdong||Protests and factory cordoned off by police to prevent workers from leaving during work hours; police clash with workers on 31 May.||Management increases salary from 939 yuan a month to 1,600 yuan. Two week strike ends 11 June.|
|Flextronics plant||U.S.||Zhuhai, Guangdong||Nearly 1000 workers on strike, demanding wage raises similar to those at Foxconn|
|Chimei Innolux Corp (formerly TPO displays)||Taiwan||Pudong, Shanghai||Labor dispute over merger||resolved without pay hike|
|Brother||Japan||Xi'an||Two sewing machine factories halted production for about a week.[dead link]||Workers return, amidst negotiations with management on pay and conditions.|
|Merry Electronics||–||Shenzhen Guangdong||1,000 employees on strike on 6 June||Strike ends after 10% pay increase.|
|Yacheng Electronics||South Korea||Huizhou Guangdong||2,000 employees on strike, demanding better wages and less overtime|
|KOK Machinery||Taiwan||Kunshan, Jiangsu||2,000 workers clashed with police on 7 June 50 workers injured in clash with police||Strike ends after agreement reached.|
|Henan Pingmian Textiles Group||Zhejiang||Pingdingshan, Henan||5,500 workers on strike, asking for better pay and working conditions|
|Nujiang Transportation Group||Local||Nujiang Lisu A.P., Yunnan||More than 120 long-distance bus drivers on strike beginning in April|
|Tianjin Star Light Rubber & Plastic||Japanese/Chinese joint venture||Tianjin||Workers strike||Employees return to work after the company agrees to review the pay structure.|
|Toyoda Gosei Co.||Japan||Tianjin||Workers strike after labor and management had agreed, in principle, to a 20% pay raise. Around 40 employees in the distribution division walk off the job, demanding more.||Strike ends with 20% wage increases and added benefits.|
|Toyota Tianjin Assembly Plant||Japanese/Chinese joint venture||Tianjin||Lack of parts produced by Tianjin parts factories results in partial suspension of production||Work resumes after strike at suppliers settled.|
|Chongqing Brewery Company / Carlsberg||Chinese/Danish joint venture||Chongqing||Workers of joint venture brewery with Carlsberg strike to oppose share sale. Carlsberg wants to increase stake in CBC from 17.46% to 29.71%|
|Denso (Guangzhou Nansha)||Japan||Guangzhou||Workers at Toyota-affiliated parts maker strike. Lack of injectors leads to work stoppage at Chinese operations of Toyota and Honda||Workers return after two-day strike, ending parts shortage at car factories|
|NHK Spring||Japan||Guangzhou||Workers go on strike. Lack of parts shuts down second Honda plant||NHK strike settled after one day.|
|Jiexiu factory (textile, dye, paper, ceramics division)||state-run||Shanxi||Week long protest ending June 2010. 25% of sacked workers received no pension or medical insurance as stipulated in their benefit packages. Issue has been going on since 2001.|
|Honda Automobile (China) Co.||Japanese/Chinese joint venture||Guangzhou||First strike at car joint venture: Workers strike for two days, return after concessions.||Work resumes after two-day strike|
|Omron||Japan||Guangzhou||800 workers go on strike demanding 40% pay raise|
- China tells Japan wage demands "understandable" reuters.com, Sat 28 August 2010 1:17 pm EDT
- Jackson, Allison (16 June 2010). "Foreign firms in China targeted in labour unrest". Google. AFP. Archived from the original on 21 June 2010. Retrieved 25 June 2010.
- For Foxconn suicides, see "Foxconn China Assembly Workers Receive Pay Raise". ABC News. Retrieved 25 June 2010.
- For Honda factories, see "Honda to seek better labor relations in China". MarketWatch. 16 June 2010. Retrieved 25 June 2010.
- "Economics Focus: Socialist Workers". The Economist. 10 June 2010. Retrieved 18 June 2010.
- "Toyota chief: China labor trend both good and bad". Reuters. 9 July 2010. Archived from the original on 20 July 2010. Retrieved 11 July 2010.
- "Labour strife rolls across China: Textile workers toiling for pennies say they’ve had enough" article by Bill Schiller in The Toronto Star 8 June 2010
- Ramsy, Austin (28 May 2010). "Chinese Factory Under Scrutiny As Suicides Mount". TIME. Archived from the original on 30 June 2010. Retrieved 17 June 2010.
- "Suicides at Foxconn reveal woes". China Daily. 26 May 2010. Archived from the original on 30 May 2010. Retrieved 25 June 2010.
- "Foxconn Raises Worker Pay 30%" article from Bloomberg News printed in The New York Times 1 June 2010
- "After Spate of Suicides, Technology Firm in China Raises Workers’ Salaries" article by David Barboza 2 June 2010
- "Foxconn Increases Size of Raise in Chinese Factories" article by David Barboza in The New York Times 6 June 2010
- Some workers at Honda's China parts plant still on strike xinhuanet.com, 31 May 2010
- Honda's China Plants Remain Closed as Talks Continue bloomberg.com, Makiko Kitamura – 31 May 2010 5:06 pm PT
- China's factory workers finding, and flexing, their muscle latimes.com, une 02, 2010
- Honda stalled as China workers mull wage increase[permanent dead link] csmonitor.com, Elaine Kurtenbach, Associated Press / 1 June 2010
- Honda China production still out after strike and clashes reuters.com, Tue 1 June 2010 6:51 am EDT
- "Li Hong's column". People's Daily. 7 June 2010. Archived from the original on 15 June 2010. Retrieved 25 June 2010.
- "Strike in China Highlights Gap in Workers’ Pay" article by Keith Bradsher and David Barboza in The New York Times 28 May 2010
- Honda Restarts Operations at Chinese Auto-parts Factory Today After Strike bloomberg.com, Makiko Kitamura – 1 June 2010 11:30 pm PT
- "Honda Lost Yuan 3 Billion in Sales on Strike". ChinaAutoWeb.com. Retrieved 25 September 2010.
- "Power Grows for Striking Chinese Workers" article by David Barboza and Hiroko Tabuchi 8 June 2010
- "A Labor Movement Stirs in China" article by Keith Bradsher in The New York Times 10 June 2010
- "Some Return to Work for Honda Amid Strike" article by Keith Bradsher in The New York Times 12 June 2010
- "With Concessions, Honda Strike Fizzles in China" article by Keith Bradher in The New York Times 13 June 2010
- "Honda Strikers in China Offered Less Than Demanded" article by Andrew Jacobs in The New York Times 18 June 2010
- "With Strike, Toyota Idles Auto Plant in China" article by Hiroko Tabuchi in The New York Times 22 June 2010
- "China: Strike force" article by Tom Mitchell in The Financial Times 10 June 2010 22:40 | Last updated: 10 June 2010 22:40. Retrieved 19 June 2010.
- "Strike at Toyota parts supplier ends quickly". China Daily. 18 June 2010. Retrieved 25 June 2010.
- "Labor unrest and role of unions". China Daily. 18 June 2010. Archived from the original on 24 June 2010. Retrieved 25 June 2010.
- "KFC latest company to increase salaries". China Daily. 18 June 2010. Archived from the original on 21 June 2010. Retrieved 25 June 2010.
- "Strike at Toyota parts supplier ends quickly". China Daily. 18 June 2010. Retrieved 25 June 2010.
- "KFC latest company to increase salaries". China Daily. 18 June 2010. Retrieved 25 June 2010.
- "Labor unrest and role of unions". China Daily. 18 June 2010. Retrieved 25 June 2010.
- "The minimum wage should signal a change in social values". China Daily. 18 June 2010. Archived from the original on 31 July 2010. Retrieved 25 June 2010.
- Barboza, David (16 June 2010). "In China, Labor Movement Enabled by Technology". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 20 June 2010. Retrieved 18 June 2010.
- "Strikes signal end to cheap labor". China Daily. 3 June 2010. Archived from the original on 6 June 2010. Retrieved 25 June 2010.
- "China Mulls 'Income-Doubling Plan'". 8 June 2010. Retrieved 16 June 2010.
- "BofA: Salary gains to damp capital spending". China Daily. 8 June 2010. Retrieved 25 June 2010.
- "China’s Rising Wages Won’t Deter Investment, Xie Says" BusinessWeek 10 June 2010
- Bodeen, Christopher (11 June 2010). "Strikes put China on spot over labor unrest". Archived from the original on 13 June 2010. Retrieved 12 June 2010.
- Han, Dongfang (17 June 2010). "China's Workers Are Stirring". International Herald Tribune. Archived from the original on 20 June 2010. Retrieved 18 June 2010.
- "Addressing social conflicts". China Daily. 11 June 2010. Retrieved 25 June 2010.
- Watts, Jonathan (17 June 2010). "Strikes in China signal end to era of low-cost labour and cheap exports". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 21 June 2010. Retrieved 18 June 2010.
- Wang, Yang (28 May 2010). "Guangdong Party chief urges companies to care more for employees after Foxconn suicides". Xinhua. Archived from the original on 2 June 2010. Retrieved 18 June 2010.
- "汪洋为何强调转变经济发展方式中更要注重"人文关怀"？". cpc.cn. Retrieved 17 June 2010.
- Schiller, Bob (8 June 2010). "Labour strife rolls across China". Toronto Star. Archived from the original on 11 June 2010. Retrieved 12 June 2010.
- "中国官方封堵罢工消息 (Chinese authorities restrict news on strikes)". Duowei. 18 June 2010. Archived from the original on 21 June 2010. Retrieved 18 June 2010.
- Cao, Tongqing. "广东将试点工会干部职业化 (Guangdong will attempt to professionalize union cadres)". Duowei. Archived from the original on 28 June 2010. Retrieved 14 June 2010.
- Tran, Tini (16 June 2010). "China premier Wen Jiabao urges improved treatment of migrant workers amid labour unrest". The Canadian Press. Retrieved 18 June 2010.
- Mitchell, Tom (4 June 2010). "Salary deals raise questions over China's workforce". Financial Times. Retrieved 16 June 2010.
- "Another Foxconn pay raise". AP via Strait Times. Retrieved 15 June 2010.
- "Strike ends at Toyota's China-based parts supplier". BusinessWeek. 19 June 2010. Archived from the original on 22 June 2010. Retrieved 25 June 2010.
- South China Morning Post. "Labour disputes hit six factories." Retrieved 11 June 2010.
- "Tables turn on Chinese employers.", The Financial Times, Retrieved 11 June 2010.
- Chan, John. "Honda Lock strike in China continues as industrial unrest spreads". WSWS. Retrieved 12 June 2010.
- "archives". The Taipei Times. 12 June 2010. Retrieved 25 June 2010.
- Layne, Nathan (10 June 2010). "UPDATE 1-Japan's Brother restarts China output after strike". Reuters. Archived from the original on 14 June 2010. Retrieved 25 June 2010.
- Irishtimes.com. "Irishtimes.com." Foxconn says it may move some production back to Taiwan. Retrieved 11 June 2010.
- "Merry Electronics says its Shenzhen workers ended their strike on June 6". The China Post. Taiwan (ROC). 9 June 2010. Retrieved 25 June 2010.
- Financialpost.com. "Financialpost.com Archived 11 June 2010 at the Wayback Machine.." Wage unrest threatens Beijing's power. Retrieved 11 June 2010.
- "Investors worry about labor costs". Global Times. Business.globaltimes.cn. 10 June 2010. Retrieved 25 June 2010.
- Schiller, Bill (8 June 2010). "Labour strife rolls across China". Toronto Star. Archived from the original on 10 June 2010. Retrieved 11 June 2010.
- Huang, Jingjing. "Yunnan bus drivers strike". Global Times. Retrieved 11 June 2010.
- Tabuchi, Hiroko (18 June 2010). "Walkout Closes Another Toyota Supplier in China". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 23 June 2010. Retrieved 25 June 2010.
- "Toyota is latest car maker hit by strike in China". The Detroit News. 17 June 2010. Retrieved 25 June 2010.
- "Toyota China Supplier Hit by Strike as Unrest Spreads (Update2)". BusinessWeek. 18 June 2010. Retrieved 25 June 2010.
- "Toyota resumes China plant output as strike ends". Reuters. 19 June 2010. Archived from the original on 23 June 2010. Retrieved 25 June 2010.
- "Carlsberg causes strike at Chongqing Brewery Company". GlobalTimes. 18 June 2010. Retrieved 25 June 2010.
- "New strike affects parts supplier to Toyota and Honda – GlobalTimes". Autos.globaltimes.cn. Retrieved 25 June 2010.
- "New strike halts Toyota production". China Daily. 15 June 2010. Archived from the original on 9 July 2010. Retrieved 25 June 2010.
- Kim, Chang-Ran (15 June 2010). "Honda: 2nd China plant halted; strike at NHK Spring". Reuters. Archived from the original on 29 June 2010. Retrieved 25 June 2010.
- Kim, Chang-Ran (23 June 2010). "Honda: China plants to restart, supplier strike ends". Reuters. Archived from the original on 1 July 2010. Retrieved 25 June 2010.
- South China Morning Post. "SCMP." Ex-state workers protest over unpaid wages. Retrieved 26 June 2010.
- Nikkei "Nikkei." Strike Hits Honda Assembly Plant In China Retrieved 9 July 2010.
- Yahoo.com. "Yahoo.com[permanent dead link]." Workers strike at another auto parts plant in China. Retrieved 25 July 2010.