By Maurits Elen
Roughly 400 workers at the Hi-P International electronics plant in Shanghai continued their protest this week, after their negotiations with company officials failed yet again. The protest is the latest in a growing series of labor disputes in China.
The factory workers, who work making particles for companies such as Apple, HP, RIM, and Motorola, were entitled to compensation after Hi-P International decided to relocate some of its production to Suzhou in Jiangsu province last week.
Workers began protesting when Hi-P neglected to pay the legally required amount of compensation. The entrance to the Hi-P international plant, located in east Shanghai’s Jinqiao industrial zone, was blocked while workers held banners demanding compensation and chanting “Pay us money, pay us money.”
The South China Morning Post managed to get an opinion from one proletarian protestor from Sichuan:
“Most of us have been working at this factory for many years, so we should be properly compensated if they want to break our contracts. We work long shifts, sometimes over 20 hours. Even with a company shuttle bus, the new factory will mean an hour and a half’s travelling every day, so we won’t have any time left to rest.”
Many factories have recently been troubled with financing in both the construction and manufacturing sectors, leading to sketchy practices like delaying or outright denying payment for migrant workers.
Executive chairman Yao Hsiao Tung stated that the relocation was scheduled to take place in March 2012, and that the decision was not his to make:
”We have no alternative but to move the factory, as the government has decided to change this area’s zoning from industrial to commercial. “We regret that this situation has arisen and want to resolve it as quickly as possible and according to the law.”
Even though the company officials said they were discussing the matter with the employees, no real agreement on the matter has been made so far. Strikers are currently refusing to sign agreements to accept the termination of their jobs by the end of the year, with no compensation given.
Growing unrest on labor market
China has seen a growing series of labor disputes recently due to a slowing demand for its exports in Europe, and an increasing uncertainty about the global economy, which is fueled by the European sovereign debt crisis and a weak recovery in the US.
Two weeks ago in southern Guangdong province, over 10,000 workers besieged a shoe factory in a massive strike in Dongguan after losing overtime pay, more than 400 female workers at a bra factory in Shenzhen halted work to protest ill treatment, and factory workers from an Apple and IBM supplier blocked a highway to protest labor conditions and excessive hours.
And last week, Chinese employees blocked and barricaded the entrances and exits of the British supermarket Tesco.
Zhou Yongkang, a top Chinese official and member of the Politburo, has warned about the specter of social unrest arising due to the state of the economy. According to Zhou, the country needs to improve its means of handling the turbulence that arises from having a market economy system.
“Especially when facing the negative effects of the market economy, we still have not formed a complete mechanism for social management,” Zhou said. How to do so, he said, “is the great and urgent task before us.”