Most Honda workers back at work at Chinese plant

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Published: June 14,2010

Tags: automobile industry, labor, manufacturing, strike, unions

SHANGHAI — Most workers striking to demand higher wages returned to their jobs at a Honda plant in southern China after walking off the production line last week, Honda officials said today.

Koji Matsuyama, an official at Honda Lock’s headquarters in Miyazaki, Japan, said the strike ended Saturday, and almost all workers returned to work today. The company was still not operating at full capacity, he said.

The strike at Honda Lock (Guangdong) Co. comes amid an upsurge in industrial actions by migrant workers frustrated over relatively low pay, harsh working conditions and surging living costs.

Matsuyama refused to comment on news that the factory was hiring new workers to replace those who refused to return to work.

However, an official who identified herself as a human resources manager at the plant in Zhongshan, just outside the southern city of Guangzhou, said that the company was hiring new workers to replace those who had not come back.

The workers who gave up the strike agreed to accept a wage raise of 200 yuan (about $30) to 1,139 yuan ($170), said the manager, who refused to give her name. The workers had been seeking raises of 1,700 yuan-2040 yuan ($250-$300), and rejected an earlier offer of 100 yuan ($15), the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

Honda officials in Tokyo referred inquiries to Honda Lock.

About 85 percent of plant’s 1,400 workers had joined the action, forcing a halt to operations.

The strike last week came as Honda resumed production at two other car assembly plants after resolving a three-day strike at parts supplier Foshan Fengfu Autoparts Co.

Honda said the Foshan factory employees agreed to a pay raise of 366 yuan ($53.60) per month for each full-time worker. That would increase pay for a new employee to 1,910 yuan ($280) per month.

Workers largely had accepted slower wage growth during the recent economic slowdown, but as the economy has rebounded and prices rise, they are working longer hours with no appreciable improvement in income, prompting some to take action.

Fearing challenges to their hold on power, China’s communist leaders ban unauthorized labor organizations and public dissent. Those who violate those bans face harassment and prosecution.

But authorities have long tolerated limited, local protests by workers unhappy over wages or other issues, perhaps recognizing the need for an outlet for such frustrations.

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