By on May 30, 2010

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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14 Comments on “Chinese Strikes: Honda Enters The Kiddie Phase...”

  • avatar

    The discussion of the media coverage in China is an interesting one, especially with the relevance to Foxconn and their Taiwanese roots. Labor rights and work conditions are on the forefront of Chinese public conscience right now.

    Honda would do good to be sensitive of that. The Japanese are easy villains in China, and if the Toyota recall situation has taught Japanese management anything, it should be that they need to be very careful of the political atmosphere of where they do business.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    I don’t know why the workers are upset about working twelve hours a day, six days a week for subsistence wages. Don’t they understand how grateful they should be?

  • avatar

    The more rapidly wages in China rise, the more rapidly their competitive edge vanishes. The cost of transportation, the supply chain inefficiencies and such lead to more of our manufacturing jobs staying in the USA. Additionally, Chinese paid a higher wage become consumers, both of our exports and of domestically produced products (which means China does not have to subsidize exports to fuel domestic job growth.

    • 0 avatar

      Look, I know many on this sight praise the Chinese for their fantastic development and sing the praises of the new society.
      And now this striking is proof…again.

      Come back to me when it’s a Chinese motor car plant that is striking, not a Japanese company.
      We will then see how fast the new modern and socially sensitive people’s government reacts.

  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    I love my Hondas, but will NEVER purchase one with parts from China.


    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      You cannot avoid parts from China anymore. One of the dash speakers failed on my Japan assembled 2006 Acura TSX. Upon removal I found it marked “Pioneer” and “China”.

  • avatar

    Turn of the (last) century US exploitation of the ‘working class’ is starting to bite the ChiCom growth machine in the ass…

    Shocking, I tell you. Shocking. The saving grace for the ChiComs will be the Totalitarian State, and the ability to make the US strikebusters of yore look like big, pink, fuzzy rabbits.

    Tianamen Square redux, anyone?

    Despite the (admittedly effective) PR machine, China now is still the same China as 20 years ago. More media savvy to be sure, but in the final analysis, The Party gets what it wants.

    Sadly, of our own free will Americans have given the ChiComs enough of our assets (in return for cheap, poor quality goods) that they can probably ride this one out.

    Remember, not that long ago when the Three Gorges Dam was never going to be completed without the funding of the IMF and some complicit international banks? How we should all long for those good old days…

    We squandered our opportunity to keep the China where it needs to be for the survival of the planet. Shortsighted government? Yup, we have it. In spades.

    The American Century has ended, and we have ceded the next hundred years to the Chinese out of the greed and hubris of the few among us. Tragically, none of the enablers of this selling out of our nation will be tried for treason.

    The only thing we can prove to have been learned from history, is that we don’t learn from history.

  • avatar

    “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”

    • 0 avatar

      That’s what some Chinese articles claim. Well, they may exaggerate a little.

      However, I happen to know what some foreign “experts” make, and their housing allowance alone would be a good chunk of those 11K ….

    • 0 avatar

      Ha ha!… the quoting marks on expert said it all.

      I’ve seen something like that here. But never such high disproportion. AFAIK.

      I wouldn’t feel bad if I were one of those “experts” with that kind of coin.

      In any case, money has to be taken back home, and that “assistance” is one of the ways.

    • 0 avatar

      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.

  • avatar

    $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.

    • 0 avatar

      $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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