The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

China:
Strike Wave over Pay and Working Conditions

Dec 12, 2011

On November 22nd, a thousand workers went on strike at Jingmo, an electronics factory in Shenzhen, a south China city of ten million people. This factory is owned by the Taiwanese Jingyuan Computer Group and makes keyboards and other accessories for Apple, IBM and LG.

Angry workers protested a huge increase in work hours. After the normal work day from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. with a two-hour lunch break, the bosses wanted workers to work to 6 p.m. or even midnight or 2 a.m. This report comes from China Labor Watch, a not-for-profit organization in Hong Kong.

When the workers heard the news, they left work and demonstrated in the street, denouncing bad working conditions that cause many accidents. They protested the systematic laying off of older workers and the behavior of managers, who often insult workers. They went back to work only when management promised to reduce the overtime hours.

On November 16th, in the same province, 400 women workers from Top Form Underwear making bras went on strike for five days against a wage cut and the imposition of piece rates. Their anger had increased after a foreman insulted a worker who didn’t understand an order given in Cantonese – because the common language is Mandarin.

On November 17th, in Dongguan, 7,000 workers from an industrial complex in Guangdong province near Canton went on strike against layoffs and pay cuts at Yucheng, a shoe factory. These workers are contracted to such corporations as Adidas, Nike and New Balance. Clashes with the police left several wounded. Workers feared the plant would be moved to Jiangxi province, where workers are paid even worse wages than in Guangdong.

This month-long strike wave mainly affected Guongdong province, which is highly industrialized and very populous. Tens of millions of migrant workers employed in the factories there suffer the heavy consequences of the world economic crisis.

The Vice Prime Minister in charge of finances recently warned that the Chinese economy was about to enter a long recession. Since the beginning of 2011, exports have hardly increased, which has led to a production slow-down. Production in China has recently declined at the sharpest rate in 2½ years.

When orders decline, the Chinese bosses react like bosses do throughout the world: they make the workers pay. Most of these bosses are contractors for big Western corporations, and these corporations make enormous profits from the fierce exploitation of Chinese workers.

Though Chinese workers are more exploited, they have the same problems as U.S. and European workers: low wages, layoffs, run-away plants. Often they have the same bosses. Their fight is an encouragement for all workers everywhere.