China Toyota supplier 'reopens' after brief strike

Some workers, unhappy about pay were on a go-slow, or continuing to strike, others said as they left the factory in an industrial estate on the outskirts of the city.

China Toyota supplier 'reopens' after brief strike

A strike and go-slow labour action has hit a Chinese supplier for Toyota Motor Corp, the latest in a rare rash of labour disputes, as the Communist Party's mouthpiece called for higher workers' incomes to protect stability.

The Toyoda Gosei plant, in the northern port city of Tianjin close to Beijing, was shut down on Tuesday by a strike, a company spokesman said but added that employees went back to work the next day after managers agreed to discuss wage increases.

Outside the plant on Thursday morning, sounds of clanging and electric grinders could be heard from its main workshop, but some workers said they had not returned to the production line.

"We're not working today. We were on strike," one middle-aged female employee leaving the factory gate told Reuters.

"It's been a tense day. We've been discussing wages," she said, adding before she was ordered away from reporters that part of the problem was no workers wanted to come forward as leaders.

Some workers, unhappy about pay were on a go-slow, or continuing to strike, others said as they left the factory in an industrial estate on the outskirts of the city.

The stoppage is the latest in a string of walkouts that in recent weeks has paralysed several factories across China.

The unusual display of worker assertiveness is sensitive for the ruling Communist Party, which fears movements that could undermine its legitimacy or grip on power. It has also raised questions about China's future as a low-cost manufacturing base.

Guards prevented other workers at the Toyota supplier from speaking to journalists, who were also told not to linger nearby.

The firm, 43 percent owned by Toyota Motor and a supplier of items such as door components for compact cars, has not fallen behind its production schedule because it cancelled a holiday on Wednesday, the spokesman said.

A Toyota Motor spokeswoman also said her company keeps some spare parts in inventory to allow it to cope with unexpected situations at its main auto plants in Tianjin.

"Made in China" model changing

The commentary on treatment of migrant workers in the People's Daily newspaper, which acts as a channel for government thinking, did not mention the recent strikes.

But echoing comments by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao earlier in the week, its author said the time had come to narrow the rich-poor gulf, which it added was stifling consumer demand.

The "made-in-China" model is "facing a turning point," said the newspaper. It urged improved conditions for the migrant workers whose cheap labour has powered China's export-led growth.

"What is important is achieving a relatively big improvement in the lives of ordinary people, especially wage labourers and their families," added Tang Jun, a social policy researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a government think tank.

Also on Thursday, a branch of U.S. fast food restaurant KFC signed a collective labour contract in which it agreed to raise minimum wages by 200 yuan ($29.27) a month, as demanded by a local trade union, the official Xinhua agency said.

The sympathetic account of worker grievances in the state media suggests that Beijing wants to avoid outright confrontation with the workers and may welcome some concessions.

The highest profile stoppage has been at a factory in southern Guangdong province that makes locks for Honda Motor vehicles, where hundreds of employees have returned to work after days of protests, pending an outcome from negotiations on Friday.

The strike at Honda Lock was the third to hit a Honda parts supplier in China. The other two, at suppliers producing exhausts and transmissions, were settled after workers received pay rises.

Chinese media coverage of the strikes has been limited and analysts say there is little danger of them sparking a wider workers rights movement.

"There is a small risk that such disputes could spiral out of control, but an even smaller risk that they will lead to wider political instability," Eurasia Group analyst Michal Meidan wrote in a recent note. ($1 = 6.832 Yuan)


Reuters

Last Mod: 17 Haziran 2010, 14:07
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