Sunday, October 31, 2010
Here's an insightful piece on recent auto industry strikes in China. The first two paragraphs are below:
The Strike Wave
Between May and July of this year a series of high-profile strikes in foreign-owned auto parts plants spread throughout China’s coastal regions. Strikes in China are nothing new, but the recent strike wave was remarkable in at least three respects: the amount of concessions granted to workers; the degree of publicity it initially received in the Chinese media; and the prospects for showcase union reform that it has helped push onto the agenda. Although the strikes were directed primarily at unfair wages, there were some attempts to address the more political question of union representation. Workers that I spoke with who had participated in strikes at Honda factories had clearly been politicized by the events and were well aware of strikes occurring throughout China’s auto industry.
The first and only strike to make headlines in the Chinese press began on May 17th and lasted until June 4th. It took place at Honda’s Nanhai factory in Foshan, Guangdong. The strike was kicked off by two workers from the factory’s assembly division. Well aware of their central position within the production line, these two young workers were quickly joined by the rest of the assembly division and were able to suspend production throughout almost the entire factory. Their actions sparked over two weeks of protest which at its height gained the support of some 1,900 workers. The strike eventually stopped production at four Honda assembly plants and went on to inspire at least eleven large-scale strikes in other foreign-owned auto factories. Was this strike wave the result of mere spontaneity? Why were the strikes so ubiquitous in the auto industry? And why did they take place in mostly Japanese-owned (or Japanese-invested) factories?