Striking Workers Clash With Police

The strikes in two Chinese industrial provinces are over such issues as overtime and salary.

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Chinese factory workers strike to demand higher wages at a factory supplying equipment to Toyota Motor in Guangdong province, June 22, 2010.

Thousands of Chinese workers in Jiangsu and Guangdong provinces have clashed with police in separate strikes in recent days over excessive overtime and poor pay.

More than 3,000 workers at the Taiwan-invested electronics company Power Success (Kun Shan) Ltd gathered outside their factory in Jiangsu on Wednesday, calling for talks with management, who instead called the police.

"There were more than 1,000 workers [outside the factory]," said a Power Success employee surnamed Zhang, who didn't take part in the strike.

"It's probably because their overtime shifts are too long, because the factory frequently requires them to work overtime," she said.

"That's what they are angry about."

She said other employees had reported that police had beaten a number of workers during clashes outside the factory.

"I heard this from my colleagues...they said it was pretty serious," Zhang said.

An employee who answered the phone on Wednesday in the factory's main office near Jiangsu's Kunshan city said the striking workers had all dispersed.

"There is no-one outside protesting now," the employee said, but declined to comment on the reports of beatings and injuries.

"I am not authorized to answer your questions, and I don't have to," she said.

Repeated calls to the Kunshan municipal labor bureau went unanswered during office hours on Wednesday.

Highway blocked

Meanwhile, in the southern province of Guangdong, workers at the Jingmo Electronics Factory in Shenzhen's No. 3 Industrial District clashed with police after they blocked a national highway on Tuesday.

The clashes came as hundreds of police arrived to clear National Highway 107, where a number of striking workers were protesting.

The workers at Jingmo, which makes computer peripherals, were also angry at the amount of overtime they were expected to work, striking workers said.

One employee told RFA's Cantonese service that workers were often required to work overtime shifts for as long as six hours in the evenings, and even through the night.

"There probably were about [3,000 workers]," she said. "But they're not striking today. They've all gone back to work as normal."

She added: "It has now been dealt with: the workers accepted it."

An employee who answered the phone at the Jingmo factory offices on Wednesday confirmed the strike was triggered by overtime demands.

"Yes, it seems so," the employee said, when asked about the overtime issue. "

"During the week, there are overtime shifts running pretty late on weekday nights," the employee said. "But they won't let anyone work on weekends when they would get double pay."

A management-level employee who declined to give his name denied the claim.

"It's very difficult from the point of view of management," he said. "If you give them overtime, they complain that there is too much overtime, and if you don't give them overtime, they complain that their salary is too low."

He said conditions at Jingmo were "not too bad."

"We even give them the insurance they are supposed to have," he said.

Less harsh

Chinese factory workers strike to demand higher wages at the factory of Denso (Nansha) Co Ltd, a supplier of Toyota Motor, in Guangzhou, south Chinas Guangdong province, June 22, 2010.

The strikes are the latest in a string of industrial disputes to hit the Pearl River Delta in recent weeks.

Shenzhen-based rights activist Zhu Jianguo said the authorities were clamping down less harshly on striking workers than previously.

"This is a crucial time [for the provincial government], because next year they will have to report to Beijing [at the 18th Party Congress]," Zhu said.

"If Guangdong is up in arms just before they do that, then their careers are going to be finished."

He said the authorities were using less harsh tactics so as to avoid souring the popular mood.

"They want to leave a better feeling among bystanders [who witness these incidents]," Zhu said.  "This will minimize the risk of a chain reaction."

China's striking workers often come from a new generation of migrant workers from inland provinces, who are less prepared to tolerate poor pay and working conditions, according to the Hong Kong-based China Labor Bulletin (CLB).

"These young activists have not only won noticeable concessions from their employers, they have also forced the government and trade unions to reassess their labour and social policies," the CLB said in a news release linked to a recent report on Chinese labor issues.

According to the report, China's workers are getting more skilled at negotiating with employers, and have won major concessions, as well as putting in place the beginnings of a collective bargaining system.

Reported by Fung Yat-yiu for RFA's Cantonese service, and by Qiao Long for the Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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