06/17/2010, 00.00
CHINA
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Strikes spread north, Toyota plant closed

Workers at a Tianjin plant put down their tools and gain higher wages after quick negotiations. Growing industrial action is scaring the government, which maintains an ambiguous attitude to workers’ demands.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Strikes are spreading to northern China. The Toyota Motor Co announced that a strike that hit one of its parts suppliers has ended and that it did not affect production at a nearby major assembly plant. The supplier based in the northern city of Tianjin resumed production after workers and management reached an agreement on Wednesday to end the brief work stoppage, Beijing-based Toyota spokesman Liu Peng said.

Japan's Asahi Shimbun had earlier reported that the world's biggest automaker told affiliates that an assembly plant also located in Tianjin which makes door parts may be forced to idle production lines due to the strike.

However, further labour disruption was avoided when the company agreed to review the pay structure for its 800 workers, the Toyota spokesman said that.

Production resumed on Wednesday afternoon, despite a national holiday, to make up for lost time.

Toyota’s example represents a big step forward for Chinese workers. Until now, they had resorted to industrial action only in Guangdong, the rich southern province, where most firms are run by foreign managers. The one exception is that of workers at the Honda plant in Shanghai who were inspired by their colleagues in the south to strike for better pay.

Now, labour unrest has spread to the north, underscoring the fact that dissatisfaction affects migrants all over the country.

It is also a sign that a generational shift is underway between older migrant workers and their children, who have higher expectations and less tolerance for low wages and harsh working conditions.

Conscious of what is at the stake, the authorities appear of two minds when it comes to the workers’ demands. Prime Minister Wen Jiabao has called migrant workers “children of the homeland”, but his government has also called on police to keep a lid on social tensions.

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