Die Krise kommt mittlerweile in der „Werkbank der Welt“ auch am Arbeitsmarkt an. Aus Protest gegen Entlassungen sind etwa in der chinesischen Wirtschaftsmetropole Shanghai mehr als tausend Arbeiter einer Elektronikfabrik in den Streik getreten. Die Fabrik gehört der Elektronikfirma Hi-P International aus Singapur. Hi-P produziert für Apple. Das Unternehmen hat rund tausend Arbeitern gekündigt, weil es die Produktion in die nahe gelegene Stadt Suzhou verlegen will. Auch die Zeiten, wo Chinas Arbeiterschaft willig und unter allen Bedingungen vor sich hinarbeitete sind offensichtlich vorbei. Die Arbeiter zeigen vermehrt Selbstbewusstsein: Immer wieder erheben sich die Werktätigen und pochen auf ihre Rechte. Laut der in den USA ansässigen Gruppe China Labour Watch sind bei Auseinandersetzungen mit der Polizei in der Fabrik auch mehrere Arbeiter verletzt worden. Die Krise stellt alle Beteiligten vor neue Herausforderungen: Die Beschäftigten stellen höhere Ansprüche an ihre Arbeitgeber. Diese kämpfen wiederum mit steigenden Kosten und – als Folge der Finanzkrise – mit sinkenden Exporten.
1,000 Workers Go on Strike at Hailiang Memory Equipment Company to Protest Loss of Seniority.
December 7th, 2011 –From 11 PM on December 4th, 1,000 workers at a hard drive factory in Shenzhen, Guangdong have been on strike. They are protesting the factory’s decision to reset everyone’s seniority to zero years after the factory was sold to another business. Workers have stated that they want the factory to provide compensation depending on each worker’s previous length of service. Workers have raised banners on the square in front of the factory reading “We Also Know Our Rights” and “Japanese Companies Shamelessly Bully Chinese Workers,” and have blockaded the factory gates.
The strike occurred at the Hailiang Memory Equipment Company’s factory in the Great Wall Industrial Park, which is in Shenzhen’s Nanshan Technological Development District. The factory is a subsidiary of Hitachi’s computer memory division. This year, Hitachi decided to sell Hailiang to Western Digital and simultaneously reset the workers’ seniority calculations, effectively making them all new hires. Levels of seniority have an influence on salary and compensation upon termination of workers’ contracts. Needless to say, workers at the factory were dissatisfied with the handling of the sale and met to discuss going on strike to demand that management give them fair compensation for the reset of their seniority.
According to a worker who participated in the strike, there had already been tension between the factory management and their workers and the factory’s sale was only a trigger. The base monthly salary for new workers is only $228, which increases to $260 after 6 months. In recent years, although the basic salary of the workers have been increased from even lower wages, management cancelled the transportation and meal allowance, extended the probationary period of worker contracts, limited the overtime hours each person could work and often withheld workers’ overtime salaries. Therefore, workers’ real income had not increased, making workers increasingly unhappy with the management.
This is not the first time that this dissatisfaction has led to the Hailiang workers taking action. In 2007, to protest the factory withholding overtime compensation, over 1,000 workers went on strike and assembled on Shennan Avenue, disrupting traffic. The crowd was eventually dispersed by more than 100 police officers.
As of press time, the strike is currently ongoing. The workers and the management are still negotiating with each other. Neither side has resorted to the use of force, and the factory has been providing food and water to the striking workers.
Executive Director of China Labor Watch Li Qiang believes that this strike, along with other recent labor unrest throughout China, reflects a problem in factories’ relationships with their workers. Li points out that Chinese corporations and their foreign ownership rarely consult workers before making decisions. When there are strikes, corporations usually choose to pressure the local government to force workers to stop striking as soon as possible, rather than negotiate with the strikers. This kind of resolution does not solve the problems that caused the workers to strike and the resentment created by government action merely triggers more strikes and protests in the future.
Workers are currently more aware of their rights and how to protect them than they have been in the past. They have also learned how to organize themselves to take collective action. Li believes that the key to resolving the existing tension among workers, corporations and the government is for corporations and the government to listen to workers’ demands, get a sense of what they need, and grant them the right to collectively bargain for redress. We call on corporations to bring their workers into the decision-making process. Chinese workers should be able to represent themselves in their factories.
About China Labor Watch:
Founded in 2000, China Labor Watch is an independent not-for-profit organization. In the past ten years, CLW has collaborated with unions, labor organizations and the media to conduct a series of in-depth assessments of factories in China that produce toys, bikes, shoes, furniture, clothing, and electronics for some of the U.S.’s largest companies.CLW’s New York office creates reports from these investigations, educates the international community on supply chain labor issues, and pressures corporations to improve conditions for workers.
Meanwhile, CLW’s Shenzhen office works closely with local factories and serves migrant workers in Guangdong Province through several programs. These include the Free Legal Consultation Hotline Program, community training in collective bargaining, and the Train the Trainer Program to enhance the capacity of local labor movements.
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