TIANJIN - The country's top commerce official on Friday denied there was a nationwide surge in strikes, but maintained labor disputes that have hampered China's manufacturing assembly lines must be handled properly to avoid an impact on the economy.
Minister of Commerce Chen Deming told the Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV on the phone that a string of recent strikes that have crippled industrial magnates like Foxconn, Toyota and Honda were an "isolated phenomenon", which won't have a sweeping effect once appropriately resolved.
"Given the circumstances of the lingering global economic crisis and various other difficulties faced by enterprises, we will ensure the workers get a moderate increase in their pay and simultaneously guarantee that the employers will not be overburdened by the rising personnel costs," Chen said.
He further added that there would be no large-scale transfers of factories to Vietnam, Thailand or other Asian countries owing to increasing labor costs in China.
Chen's remarks came hours after a parts supplier for Japan's Toyota Motor Corp said it was dealing with a second strike this week at a plant in Tianjin municipality, the latest in a string of once-rare labor disputes in Chinese factories.
The chance of more industrial action also loomed over a Honda plant in the southern manufacturing heartland of Guangdong, where workers are waiting for a new pay offer later on Friday before deciding whether to resume a strike they suspended on Tuesday.
Workers at a plastic parts factory of Toyota Motor Corp affiliate Toyoda Gosei Co in the northeastern city of Tianjin went on strike on Thursday, forcing the plant's production line to shut down in the afternoon, said Toyoda Gosei spokesman Tomotaka Ito at the company's headquarters in Aichi, Japan.
The walkout followed a one-day strike by workers at another Toyoda Gosei unit and Toyota supplier, Tianjin Star Light Rubber and Plastic Co, which ended Wednesday after the company agreed to review the pay for its 800 workers.
"We are aware of the strike at Tianjin Toyoda Gosei. We are checking its impact on production ... and will continue to closely monitor the situation," said Toyota spokesman Hideaki Homma.
Zhu Haifeng, spokesman for the Shanghai Office of Toyoda Gosei, told China Daily on Friday that workers at the two factories staged the strike to demand higher wages.
"Due to adequate inventory of the parts, the strike has not affected the car assembly and business operations of Tianjin FAW Toyota," he said.
Zhu said Toyoda Gosei was still negotiating with workers over their demand for higher wages.
Earlier strikes at several China suppliers of Honda Motor Co have forced the company to suspend car assembly intermittently in the past month due to a lack of parts.
In Guangdong, workers at the factory, which makes locks for Honda Motor, downed tools last week but agreed to go back on Tuesday through till Friday on the understanding that the management would present them with an improved deal on wages and benefits.
China Daily, Agencies
(China Daily 06/19/2010 page5)