Wildcat strikes surge in China —again

Workers at six out of ten factories in Dongguan owned by Taiwanese multinational Yue Yuen Industrial Holdings have been on strike since April 14 after discovering the company has not been paying its 70,000 employees legally required levels of social security and housing contributions. At least 10,000 Yue Yuen workers took to the streets the day the strike began. Yue Yuen produces shoes for sportswear brands including Nike, Adidas and Asics. The strike is emblematic of a new wave of labor struggles in Guangdong, where Dongguan is located, and other industrial regions of China. Samsung, Lenovo, Nokia and Wal-Mart are among the companies hit by stoppages in recent weeks. Strikes are up by almost one-third in the first quarter of 2014 compared to the same period last year, according to research by Hong Kong-based China Labour Bulletin. The group's findings also reveal "a more forceful response from the local authorities," with a four-fold increase in police interventions and a sharp rise in arrests. This trend is confirmed by recent trials of worker activists and strike organizers. (Bloomberg, April 19; China Worker, April 17; China Labour Bulletin, April 14)

Recent months have seen walk-outs by factory workers in Shanghai and  Shenzhen, as well as dockworkers in Hong Kong, although harsh control of information in China makes keeping track of job actions a challenge for researchers.

  1. China factory explosion kills at least 68

    An explosion at a factory in Kunshan, Jiangsu province, killed at least 68 people and injured 200 Aug. 2. Pictures posted online showed people with burns sitting on the ground outside a factory complex from which black smoke was billowing. Xinhua said five company employees had been detained. The factory belongs to the Kunshan Zhongrong Metal Products company, which manufactures car parts for General Motors. (BBC News)

  2. More wildcat strikes in China

    Thousands of steelworkers in the central Chinese city of Wugang striking at the weekend for higher wages were met by some 300 police who beat strikers and took away organizers, Radio Free Asia reported, citing witnesses. The strike at state-run Wuyang Iron and Steel Co. in Henan province began on Feb. 13 and at its peak drew nearly 10,000 workers, who blocked roads and carried banners demanding higher pay and (as RFA put it) "better management."

    No other media outlets appear to have covered the strike. But China Labour Bulletin reported Feb. 4 that more than 3,000 employees at Hangzhou-based H3C Technologies Co. had been on strike for nearly three weeks in protest over plans by parent company Hewlett-Packard to restructure the company.