Worker Strikes Sweep Across China

June 8, 2010 3:22 pm Last Updated: June 8, 2010 3:22 pm

The employee strike at Honda’s Foshan factory in southeastern China, which halted car production of Japan’s second-largest car manufacturer, highlighted a wave of similar protests sweeping across China.

The two-week-long strike was called off on June 2, when workers agreed to a new pay offer, but protests against low wages and work conditions at other Chinese factories are yet to reach a resolution.

At the Yihua Equipment Engineering Co. Ltd. in eastern China’s Jiangsu Province, employees have been on strike since May 21, protesting the terms of a contract they were forced to sign. Nearly 700 people have participated in the event, which has been closely monitored by police.

“If there is no work, employees get only 80 percent of the standard minimum wages. This brings the monthly income down from the normal 2,000 yuan (US $292.84) to 500–600 yuan (US $73.2–US $87.85),” Mr. Zhang, an employee at the factory, told The Epoch Times.

Nearly 10,000 employees, laid-off workers, and their relatives also gathered in protest at the gate of the Pingmian Textile Factory in Henan Province, until they were dispersed by force by approximately 3,000 police officers. The strike stalled production for 15 days.

The Chinese state-run media reported at least 12 strikes in various factories across the country in May, including in foreign-invested facilities, such as at the Japanese-owned Sharp Electronics factory in Shanghai, the Japanese-owned Nikon factory in eastern China’s Jiangsu Province, and the Korean-owned Beijing Xingyuche Technology Co. Ltd.

Concerns that the strikes may turn into a nationwide workers’ movement has lead the Chinese Communist Party's Political Bureau to mark the protests as a “dangerous signal” and hold meetings to tackle the perceived threat, reported Boxun News citing a government insider. Adding to the regime's fears is the fact that the protests have come during a sensitive period that marks the 21st anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre.

Retired professor of physics at Shandong University and human rights activist Sun Wenguang said that the low wages, increased housing and commodity prices, and lack of rights for workers in China, including those in state-owned enterprises, is driving the recent wave of protests.

The lack of rights to form workers’ unions and the increased suppression from the authorities when appeals are made leave no other channel for the employees to voice their concerns, Sun said.