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Labor unrest and role of unions

By Anita Chan | China Daily | Updated: 2010-06-18 07:57

Workers of several factories in Guangdong province have been drawing global attention over the past couple of weeks. First, there were reports of workers jumping to their deaths in a factory of Foxconn, the world's largest electronics manufacturer. Around the same time, some 2,000 workers went on a two-week strike at a Honda component manufacturing factory, halting production in four Honda assembly plants. The two were unrelated incidents but the causes were similar - low pay, long working hours, absence of channels to redress their grievances, and trade union branches that exist only in name.

The methods chosen by the workers to protest against their plight were very different - Foxconn workers committed suicide out of desperation, but despite consequential international publicity their co-workers did not seize the opportunity to organize themselves in protest.

The Honda workers, on the other hand, were well organized, strategic and assertive, demanding sizeable wage increases, proposing a pay scale and a career ladder, electing their own representatives, re-electing office-bearers to their union branch and demonstrating solidarity and a determination to win.

Labor unrest and role of unions

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