Workers of multinationals pulling out of China go on strike
by Wang Zhicheng

Clashes with police and arrests in the Danone and Sony factories. Also problems with Coca Cola. The workers fear that the new masters (Chinese) will cut jobs, lower their wages, impoverish working conditions. Apple, McDonald's, KFC and many other moving elsewhere because the cost of Chinese labor has grown and sales fall.

Guangzhou (AsiaNews) - Thousands of workers of multinational companies have been on strike since November, dissatisfied with the management’s decision to sell the facilities to local entrepreneurs. The most tense situations are those of Coca Cola, Danone and Sony. However Apple, McDonald's and KFC are moving in the same direction.

The Coca Cola strike is still ongoing. The reason is that the US company has decided to sell the bottling plants to a local partner. There is the same problem for Danone, which wants to sell its Robust water in Guangzhou to a company in Shenzhen, the Win Holdings. Sony has also decided to sell its assembly plant in Guangdong to local entrepreneurs.

The China Labout Bulletin explains that the workers are concerned that the sale – of which they are often unaware - has some impact on their lives. The new owners often embark on restructuring, cutting jobs and lowering wages. And if the new owners are Chinese, working conditions become worse than in foreign companies. Songbo Liu, a professor on labor issues at Renmin University, says that employees fear that the new Chinese employers will be less generous and more demanding than the multinational corporations.

The strike at Sony ended a few weeks ago. But on November 14 the police clashed with thousands of workers, and there were many wounded. Eleven workers were arrested.

Sony has paid 1000 yuan to the workers to end the strike, but also fired dozens of workers, believed to be the leaders of the demonstrations. It all happened amid the silence of the official national union which, on the contrary, approved the outcome as "a victory".

At Danone administrators refused to negotiate with the workers. After two weeks of strike action, police in riot gear entered the factory, injuring several workers. The company has laid off two of them.

Over the past five years, other large foreign groups have left China. Among them: the giant US electronics, Best Buy; British supermarket Tesco and Marks & Spencer. The reasons lie in the rising costs of Chinese labor and the economic slowdown in China.

Sometimes, the choice depends on the strong price competition from Chinese firms. After the efforts of Huawei, for example, Apple is only gradually beginning to see sales of its products. From last year to now, Apple's profits from sales in China fell by at least 5%. In the last quarter it reported a 33% loss in sales.