06/24/2010, 00.00
CHINA
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More strikes in China, Toyota stops

Workers put down their tools for a third day in a row. They want better salaries and a higher end-of-year bonus. Worker rights advocate Han Dongfang says, “After 30 years of reform and spectacular economic growth, the cracks are beginning to show”; workers deserve “better standard of living, better working conditions and a better future”.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The wave of strikes that hit China in the past month is not over yet. Giant Japanese carmaker Toyota has confirmed that its Guangzhou plant has stopped production for a third consecutive day. Its rival, Honda, has been able to restart but only after giving in to workers’ demands. For worker rights advocate Han Dongfang, 30 years of repression are coming to an end. Workers have had enough and are taking their history in their hands.

Toyota production stopped on Tuesday after workers at Toyota-affiliated parts maker Denso Corp, which makes fuel injectors and other components, put down their tools. The assembly line stopped and some workers at headquarters joined fellow workers in the strike. More than 200 employees stopped work to demand higher pay and less mandatory overtime. In the meantime, production is still halted as talks continue, a company spokesperson said.

This is second major strike to hit Toyota, after the three-day stoppage at its Tianjin plant, in northern China. Workers want their monthly salaries increased from 1,200 yuan to 1,700 yuan (US$ 250) and that their end of year bonus increased from 1,200 yuan to 6,800 yuan (US$ 1,000). Management agreed to the pay rise but not the bonus demand.

After giving in to all of the workers’ demands, rival Honda was able to get them to go back to work in its Huangpu and Zengcheng plants, in Guangzhou’s industrial zone.

A local industry official, who is also a member of the National People's Congress, helped mediate an end to the strike.

Even though, the central government fears strikes, it has been ambivalent towards them. On the one hand, it has rapped foreign companies, calling on them to treat better workers. In addition, even Prime Minister Wen Jiabao has called migrant workers “children of the nation”. On the other, it has called on police to deal directly with situations that could threaten domestic stability.

“After 30 years of reform and spectacular economic growth, the cracks are beginning to show,” said Han Dongfang, founder of the China Labour Bulletin. “The workers who have created China's economic miracle are tiring of being treated like cogs in a machine, working long hours in dangerous conditions for derisory pay. They are now saying enough is enough, staging strikes and protests across the country to demand not just their basic legal rights, but also a better standard of living, better working conditions and a better future.”

Workers have taken their destiny in their own hands because trade unions (where they exist) are government-controlled. One solution is to reduce the daily costs of food, housing, health and social services. However, the term "migrant worker" should be abandoned. “Workers are workers, no matter where they come from, and should all be treated with dignity and respect,” Han said.

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