This is pretty amazing. Honda workers at three plants in China have gone on strike in the carmaker's largest potential market.
A hundred workers at one plant struck on May 17th for more than the current measly $180 US per month, or 1,200 yuan, and want at least 2,000 yuan starting pay. After Honda reneged on an agreement, 1,900 Chinese workers in two other factories came out in force eleven days ago. Honda has just shut down all four plants in Guangzhou and Wuhan despite announcing an aggressive push to boost capacity from 360,000 vehicles to 480,000 by the end of 2011, and by 28 per cent by 2012.
The largest strike ever reported in China is being seen as a warning to other auto-manufacturers in China. There's a lot to play for so the company is digging in its heels. According to the China Daily:
Negotiations were held on Tuesday between executives from all workshops and workers but "due to vast differences, the two sides failed to reach a deal," ... Government agencies and trade unions are also trying to broker a deal ... Ma Qiufeng, a professor in sociology at Guangzhou-based Jinan University, called the strike "good news" because the workers' demand may help China become a more open society.
May I say: about time, too?
One Shanghai-based analyst said:
"Profits in China's auto industry are relatively high compared to mature markets, and there's room for increasing workers' benefits."
In 2006 there were moves to open up the trade unions in China but this came to an end when the American Chamber Of Commerce, backed by the Europeans, lobbied hard against it.
China wants to maintain its national pride as it prepares to take Number One status among the world powers, but it can hardly do that if its workers are expected to man the lowly sweatshop of the world. We've already had the scandal of the spate of suicides at the Foxconn Apple and Dell factories. Not only that, but if you want your workers to be able to consume your goods, you'd better pay them well, even if capitalist consumerism inevitably leads to slumps (Marx's Das Kapital, innit?). Expect to see improving standards as when the West gained its own superior economic power. We may yet see British workers trying to join the Chinese workforce in a case of "Zai Jian, Pet".
Hong Kong labour activists push for iPhone boycott
Thanks to Denis for this Han Han link on the suicides: Han Han (韩寒): The Bloom of Youth