Nearly 3,000 workers at the Nokia factory in Dongguan, southern Guangdong, have initiated a series of rolling strikes and sit-ins in protest at a strict management regime that has already forced more than a hundred workers to leave the company.
When Nokia agreed to offload its global mobile phone business to Microsoft in September, the management in Dongguan unilaterally changed the Worker’s Handbook which outlines workplace regulations and stipulates the punishments incurred in case of violations. Many workers believed this was a move by the company to force them to resign and thereby avoid paying out compensation. One of the workers, Song Haibing, explained:
We are facing punitive regulations that get harsher by the day. If you are five minutes late signing in, there will be a warning. Two warnings mean you are out of here. More than one hundred workers have been forced to resign.
Simmering grievances reached boiling point on the morning of 19 September, when around 1,000 workers walked off the job and demanded the company abolish the changes in the Handbook and pay the workers proper compensation before the Microsoft deal goes into effect on 1 January 2014.
The situation escalated further when riot police armed with shields and batons dispersed workers gathered around one of the factory compound exits. Eleven workers were arrested and five are still being detained.
Around 3,000 workers are now taking turns to stage a peaceful sit-in at the factory in order to press their demands. The workers’ spokeswoman Ms. Cheng said the workers would continue their protest until Nokia responds.
The workers have now asked the local labour authority and the Dongguan Federation of Trade Unions to intervene and mediate in the dispute. They have also asked for the reform and restructuring of the enterprise trade union, which is currently under the control of management.
Currently, the workers, in conjunction with a local labour rights group, are discussing how to elect worker representatives who can then initiate collective bargaining with representatives of management and resolve the workers’ grievances through negotiations.