Socialist Worker

Strike halts Honda plants in China

by Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 2204

A strike by around 2,000 Honda car workers forced the closure of all the multinational’s plants in China. On Monday bosses offered a 24 percent pay rise in a bid to halt it

The strike started on Tuesday of last week at Honda Automotive Components Manufacturing in Foshan, a factory town west of Guangzhou. A lack of supplies almost immediately halted three other Honda Chinese plants.

A Financial Times columnist described the strike as “a symptom of a shift in bargaining power”.

At the start of this week the company asked its workers to sign a no-strike pledge that they “absolutely will not lead, organise or participate in work slowdowns, stoppages or strikes”.

But workers reacted defiantly. “No one is going to sign it,” said a worker at a company residential compound about 10km from the transmission plant.

He and other workers either discarded the forms unsigned or defaced them.

Honda runs its operations as a joint venture with the Chinese government, which keeps a close eye on workers through the officially sanctioned All China Federation of Trade Unions.

“The official union leaders are useless and support management,” a Honda employee said this week.

Quite rightly there has been much media coverage of the terrible toll of suicides at Foxconn, the world’s biggest contract maker of electronics and China’s largest employer.

But the Honda strike shows how some groups of Chinese workers are moving to organise effectively and independently of the fake state unions. Workers rebuffed officials from the state unions who went to Honda in an effort to end the stoppage.

The strike also demonstrates how multinationals’ “just in time” production methods make them highly vulnerable to a stoppage in parts of their supply line.

The workers had called for a 30 percent pay increase, and it was unclear on Tuesday whether the 24 percent offer would be enough to end the action.

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Tue 1 Jun 2010, 18:54 BST
Issue No. 2204
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