Chinese Strikes: Honda Enters The Kiddie Phase

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt
chinese strikes honda enters the kiddie phase

The strike at Honda’s transmission factory in China that has led to the closure of all Honda sites in China shows no sign of resolution. Actually, there is a new twist: Management is leaning on school interns not to strike, Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post reports. Why the sudden focus on interns?

19 to 20-year-old interns, fresh out of school, make up more than half of the workforce at the Honda parts factory in Foshan. Currently, interns account for most of the workforce after regular workers walked out on May 22.

Honda is offering the kids carrot and stick: If they stay, they can get monthly pay increases of more than 400 yuan (about $60). That’s on top of their training rate of $132 a month. If they join the striking workers, Honda threatens collisions with China’s labor law. That is a hollow threat. The law, enacted in 2008, gives workers European-style protection and benefits. It can’t chain the worker to the workbench.

The discussion between regular workers are at an impasse. Honda plants throughout China will most likely remain closed on Monday, Bloomberg reports. On May 24, Honda offered workers a pay raise of $17 to $22 per month. The workers refused. They are enraged that workers sent from Japan make 50 times the money a local gets. On Honda’s side, for the first time, there is talk to import transmissions from outside of China. This can take a while.

It is interesting to watch the Chinese coverage of the strike. For a few days, there was nothing. Then, there were two days of intensive coverage. Now, nothing again. The strike is over, as far as China’s weekend media is concerned. The New York Times sees that as a sign “that the Honda strike was beginning to test the government’s patience.”

Coverage of the suicides in Taiwanese-owned Foxconn on the other hand continues unabated. There are daily reports, even about suicides that do not take place. If “Chinese work conditions” trigger a “Foxconn” reflex in you, then you have become an unwitting victim of the Chinese propaganda machine. They just forgot to drive home the fact that it’s a Taiwan-owned plant. Zaole!

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  • Stingray Stingray on May 31, 2010

    "They are enraged that workers sent from Japan make 50 times the money a local gets." Are you sure it's 50? Because that accounts for US$ 11K (taking the US$ 220 from your previous article). If so, putting in their shoes, I wouldn't be enraged, I would be burning the factory. In any case, I guess the Japanese worker takes his home salary + expenses + some money paid by that branch. Also that factory pays the Japan subsidiary for "technical assistance" another fee. My guess only. Regarding the interns... if they keep working, good luck when the conflict ceases and the regular workers go back to work. The lack of solidarity will be sorely "charged"

    • See 2 previous
    • Gimmeamanual Gimmeamanual on Jun 01, 2010

      As one of the "experts" I'd be pretty happy if I made 50 times what these guys make. But I don't, and doubt the Japanese ones they're talking about do, unless they're comparing a Chinese line worker to the Japanese plant manager, but that's not a fair comparison. Or maybe I need to renegotiate my contract.

  • Mother Muckraker Mother Muckraker on Jun 01, 2010

    $17 a month???? That's slave wages. I hope they strike and win as they have little to lose. Raising their wages to $22/month is an insult. They should be making 50 times as much to achieve wage parity with Japan.

    • Gimmeamanual Gimmeamanual on Jun 01, 2010

      $17-$22 is the raise amount, not the actual pay; they currently make ~$220. And in a place where $0.50 can get you a decent meal, that's "not slave wages." Wage parity with Japan? Keep dreaming.

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