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Vol. 74/No. 25      June 28, 2010

Honda workers strike
in China over wages
Abuse of woman worker sparks walkout
(lead article)
Honda Lock company agreed to a wage increase after more than 1,000 workers at its factory in Zhongshan, China, went on strike June 9. The workers, more than half of whom are women, are demanding higher wages and the right to elect their own union representatives.

This is the third strike in a week at Honda plants or subsidiaries in China. Workers at the Honda Auto Parts plant in the southeast coastal city of Foshan in Guangdong Province won a 24 percent pay hike after a strike that ended June 2.

The strike at Japanese-owned Honda Lock, which makes locks, keys, and mirrors for Honda in Zhongshan, began after a woman worker was pushed to the ground by a security guard, according to the New York Times. She had criticized the guard for denying her entry to the plant, after he claimed her identity card was improperly attached to her shirt.

Chanting workers held a short protest march June 11 in spite of the presence of cops with riot shields. After the cops left workers continued to block the road outside the factory for an hour.

Some press reports say that the Zhongshan workers are asking for the right to elect their own union representatives, which has been won in some other factories. The All-China Federation of Trade Unions is the only officially permitted union in China. It functions mostly as a government agency that enforces labor discipline and helps the bosses raise productivity.

According to the Times, Honda Lock workers have in effect already elected their own shop stewards to participate in negotiations with the company. A worker who insisted on anonymity told the paper, “The trade union is not representing our views; we want our own union that will represent us.”

China’s official Xinhua News Agency reported June 11 on an initial agreement to end the strike and grant a 100 yuan a month wage increase (US$14.60), less than the 300 yuan workers had demanded. When many workers returned to work June 13, Xinhua said, they saw a want-ad posted promising to pay new workers 2,000 yuan a month, more than the 1,700 yuan returning strikers would get.

According to Xinhua, the workers demonstrated for more than three hours after seeing the want-ad. “They are telling us; if you do not resume work soon, the factory will employ new workers and replace you,” one worker said.

Honda Lock officials say that most strikers have returned to work.

Since 2008 the number of walkouts and strikes in China has risen sharply. In the last few weeks there have been strikes in a wide range of industries.

In early June striking workers at a Taiwanese-owned rubber factory clashed with police who tried to break up their protest in Kunshan City just outside Shanghai. Workers also walked out this month at a Japanese-owned plant that manufactures sewing machines in Xian and at a Taiwanese sporting goods factory in Jiangxi Province.

While many of the strikes have taken place at foreign-owned factories, bus and taxi drivers also went on strike earlier this year, affecting tens of thousands of people.

The Chinese government has tried to head off more strikes by encouraging local governments to raise the minimum wage. At least 14 provinces or regions have raised the minimum wage so far this year.  
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