After a string of work stoppages in May and June, it appeared that factory strikes in China were tapering off.
However, last Friday, Shanghai Daily reported that Chinese factory workers at two more suppliers for foreign automakers had walked out, demanding pay increases.
The strikes occurred at Atsumitec Co, which supplies Honda Motor Co.'s China operations, and at Japanese electronics maker Omron Corp, which supplies switches and ignition keys to Honda, Ford and other carmakers. Each was settled after the workers won what the article calls "hefty pay raises."
Reportedly, at Atsumitec, workers agreed to a 45 percent increase, which raised their wage from 980 yuan to 1,420 yuan (US$210) per month. Meanwhile, at the Guangzhou factory of Omron, workers agreed to an additional 300 yuan per month, bringing their monthly salary to about 1,570 yaun.
But, of course, as I have mentioned before, pay isn't the only point of contention for workers in China. The Shanghai Daily article points out that the strikes also underscore deeper issues, including cultural differences between Japanese managers and Chinese employees. Plus, tragedies at Foxconn factories earlier this year drew attention, once again, to the deplorable working conditions many Chinese must endure.
Do these strikes and the settlements won represent a shift in the tide? Are manufacturers now facing up to the fact that they can no longer "ignore" issues about better wages and safe, right-based working conditions in China? Based on the headlines over the past few months, it's clear that Chinese workers are becoming more assertive, and in today's increasingly interconnected and social media-driven world, any manufacturer who chooses to disregard labor issues like these is risking not only disruptions to its supply chain, but its reputation with consumers, as well.