Archive for ‘strike’

05/11/2014

Poetry of a Former Foxconn Worker in China Evokes Images of Factory Life – Businessweek

Before he took his life in late September, 24-year-old Xu Lizhi was a regular contributor of poetry to Foxconn People, the internal newspaper at his sprawling factory complex in Shenzhen. Only after he died did his writing find a wider audience, as factory friends collected his poems for publication in the Shenzhen News.

Safety netting posted around a building in Foxconn City in Shenzhen, China

Like millions of other young Chinese, Xu left his home in rural Guangdong province in 2010 to find work in the big city; he had been working intermittently on Foxconn (2317:TT)’s electronics assembly line for four years.

Following a series of 14 suicides in 2010, the Taiwanese manufacturing giant installed safety nets to prevent workers from jumping off dormitory roofs at its Shenzhen plant. It tried to improve life for its workers: The company raised basic wages and installed basketball courts and Olympic-size swimming pools for recreation. Worker suicides declined but did not disappear.

Xu’s poetry gives voice to the alienation he and many others of his generation feel on the assembly line: “I swallowed a moon made of iron/ They refer to it as a nail/ I swallowed this industrial sewage, these unemployment documents/ Youth stooped at machines die before their time/ I swallowed the hustle and the destitution/ Swallowed pedestrian bridges, life covered in rust / I can’t swallow any more/ All that I’ve swallowed is now gushing out of my throat/ Unfurling on the land of my ancestors/ Into a disgraceful poem.”

A frequent theme is how he felt the monotony of factory life sapping away “the last graveyard of our youth.” In one poem, Xu wrote: “With no time for expression, emotion crumbles into dust/ They have stomachs forged of iron/ Full of thick acid, sulfuric and nitric/ Industry captures their tears before they have the chance to fall.”

Xu also described the desolate conditions of his rented room: “A space of ten square meters/ Cramped and damp, no sunlight all year/ Here I eat, sleep, sh–, and think/ Cough, get headaches, grow old, get sick but still fail to die/ Under the dull yellow light again I stare blankly, chuckling like an idiot.”

via Poetry of a Former Foxconn Worker in China Evokes Images of Factory Life – Businessweek.

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28/04/2014

Labour unrest: Danger zone | The Economist

THE Pearl river delta in the southern province of Guangdong is no stranger to strikes, most of them small and quickly resolved. But a walk-out by workers at factories owned by a Taiwanese company, Yue Yuen, the world’s largest maker of branded sports shoes, including big names such as Nike and Reebok, has been remarkable for its scale and duration. It began on April 5th and has grown to involve tens of thousands of employees. On a sprawling industrial estate, angry workers watched by riot police rage about an issue few cared much about until recently: their pensions. For bosses and officials, this is a worrying sign of change.

The government has imposed a virtual news blackout on the unrest in the city of Dongguan, a place synonymous with the delta’s manufacturing heft (nearly 80% of its 8.3m people have moved there from other parts of China over the past three decades, or are the children of such migrants). Foreign journalists have been allowed onto Yue Yuen’s main estate in Gaobu township, a Dongguan suburb, but strikers complain that Chinese media are kept away. This contrasts with a relatively free rein given to Chinese reporters in 2010 to report on a large strike over pay by workers at a factory owned by Honda in Foshan, another delta city. That incident involved putting pressure on a Japanese company, an uncontroversial target for most Chinese. This latest, bigger strike (one of the largest in years involving a non-state enterprise in China) has touched a more sensitive government nerve.

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The workers accuse Yue Yuen of failing for years to make due contributions to their pensions, which are administered by the local government. Lax application of social-security laws is common, since local authorities do not want to drive away business. “The government is corrupt,” calls out one man among a group of strikers who have gathered near a row of factories. Such comments—directed at local officialdom, not Beijing—are almost as commonly heard as tirades against Yue Yuen itself. Workers fume at the heavy deployment of police, and the beating of some of the thousands of strikers who have been marching through nearby streets, most recently on April 18th (see picture).

Many employees say they are now too afraid to march again. Their protest has become a silent one: they clock in each morning, but then leave the factory and do no work, coming back to clock out when their shift is supposed to end. Workers say all 40,000 employees at Yue Yuen’s seven factories in Gaobu are on strike. A member of Gaobu’s Communist Party committee, Su Huiying, says 40% of them are at work and the rest are only on a “go-slow”. Her assertion appears unconvincing.

A Taiwanese manager at the company says “progress” is being made towards settling the strike. Yue Yuen has offered to make up social-security contributions that it has failed to pay; it has also agreed to start making full contributions from May 1st. But as they listen to repeated broadcasts of the company’s offer through loudspeakers, strikers respond with howls of derision. They also tear up copies of a letter from the government-backed trade union which is mediating in the dispute. The missive calls on workers to go back to work and acknowledge the company’s “sincerity”. “The unions aren’t like the ones in the West,” says one worker. “Here they just represent the government.”

Such anxieties about pension provision among a workforce in Guangdong mostly made up of young migrants may sound surprising. But they are becoming increasingly common as factories try to cope with a growing shortage of young workers from the countryside by retaining employees for longer. Many of Yue Yuen’s workers are in their 30s or even 40s, and many say they have been with the company for a decade or more. Geoffrey Crothall of the Hong Kong-based China Labour Bulletin says this has been the largest strike in a non-state factory over social-security payments, but protests over such issues are becoming more common.

via Labour unrest: Danger zone | The Economist.

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15/04/2014

Massive China shoe factory strike rolls on as offer falls flat | Reuters

Thousands of workers at a giant Chinese shoe factory shrugged off an offer for improved social benefits on Tuesday, prolonging one of the largest strikes in China in recent years amid signs of increased labor activism as the economy slows.

Yue Yuen Industrial Holdings

Yue Yuen Industrial Holdings (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The industrial unrest at Yue Yuen Industrial (Holdings), now stretching to around ten days and sparking sporadic scuffles with police, has centered on issues including unpaid social insurance, improper labor contracts and low wages. Workers have demanded improved social insurance payments, a pay rise and more equitable contracts.

“The factory has been tricking us for 10 years,” said a female worker inside a giant industrial campus in Gaobu town run by Yue Yuen in the southern factory hub of Dongguan in the Pearl River Delta. “The Gaobu government, labor bureau, social security bureau and the company were all tricking us together.”

A spokesman for Yue Yuen said the firm, which makes shoes for the likes of Nike, Adidas, Reebok, Asics and Converse with a market capitalization of some $5.59 billion, had agreed to an improved “social benefit plan” on Monday, while stressing the business impact had been “mild” so far.

“Basically, the terms that we announced yesterday was after a very thorough internal analysis and calculation and considering all the factors including the affordability from the factory perspective,” the spokesman told Reuters by phone.

via Massive China shoe factory strike rolls on as offer falls flat | Reuters.

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