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Two days, two strikes in the Pearl River Delta

Emboldened by the successful strike of their colleagues at Honda’s transmission plant last week, about 250 workers at the company’s exhaust plant in Foshan went out on strike Monday 7 June demanding higher wages and overtime payments.

This followed an almost identical strike action at Taiwanese-owned Merry Electronics (美律电子有限公司) in Shenzhen’s Bao’an district, on Sunday morning. A few hundred workers blocked the factory entrance at around 8.am and the crowd eventually grew to more than one thousand, spilling out on to the main road in Dalang sub-district. The workers held up banners demanding higher pay and less strenuous working hours.

Several hundred police officers were dispatched to disperse the crowd and several workers were reportedly injured. In the afternoon, the Dalang sub-district government brokered negotiations between workers’ representatives and management, which led to a “preliminary agreement” to raise wages.

On Monday, around 20 workers at Foshan Fengfu Autoparts (佛山市丰富汽配有限公司) staged a demonstration at the factory entrance as the morning shift arrived, and by evening around 250 workers had reportedly joined the strike. The plant employs around 460 people, including 300 front line workers.

One of the strikers told the South China Morning Post that the average salary at the plant was just 1,300 yuan per month, and that employees had been forced to work unpaid overtime to make up for lost hours when the plant was closed during the transmission plant strike.

And, like their colleagues at the transmission plant, strikers were demanding that in addition to higher wages, they be allowed to elect their own, more representative, trade union chair.

Yesterday’s Foshan strike followed a well-established pattern in China whereby one successful strike in the same company, locality or sector ignites another. In CLB’s latest research report on the workers’ movement, we cited several such examples from 2007 and 2008:

The day after the strike at the Feihuang electronics factory in Shenzhen in August 2007, workers at the nearby Shajingzhen factory in Bao’an district also downed tools and blocked local roads. Two days after workers at Chengda-owned Quanta Shoes in Guangzhou took strike action over overtime arrears on 9 January 2008, workers at its subsidiary, Chengrong, also joined the action. On 12 March 2008, workers in three units of Changshan Textile Co in Shijiazhuang went on strike demanding higher wages; they were soon joined by workers from four other factories. And six days after several hundred workers from a cement plant in Jiaozuo, Henan, staged a roadblock on 1 October 2008 in protest at the factory’s closure, more than a thousand workers from a textile plant and a crane works in the city also staged roadblocks demanding wages in arrears.

In addition, in 2008, protests and strike actions involving teachers and taxi drivers spread out across dozens of cities and provinces across China.

It seems inevitable that unless the issue of low-pay in the Pearl River Delta, and elsewhere in China, is dealt with quickly and effectively, more and more strikes are likely to follow.