China's workers are increasingly voicing their discontent on labor conditions and pay, threatening to erode the nation's competitiveness as a low-cost factory hub.
Recent weeks have seen a series of strikes at factories across China, pointing to rising worker expectations as China's top leaders warn of economic challenges in the year ahead.
China's economy is showing signs of strain due to mounting piles of local government debt, a sharp drop in external demand for exports and nagging inflation. A pronounced slowdown that could see millions of migrant factory workers laid off would be a major concern for Beijing's stability-obsessed leaders.
Following are recent developments:
PANGANG GROUP CHENGDU STEEL & VANADIUM CO LTD
New York-based China Labor Watch said more than 2,000 workers at Pangang Group Chengdu Steel & Vanadium Co Ltd in southwest China's Chengdu municipality went on strike on January 4 to protest against low wages and large pay gaps between staff and managers.
Strikers and management entered negotiations after an hours-long confrontation with police who used pepper spray to disperse crowds, the group said. Local police and staff at the factory contacted by Reuters said they were unaware of a strike, but photos posted to China's Twitter-like microblog Sina Weibo, showed police lines and hundreds of people gathered, some holding signs calling for higher wages. The authenticity of the photos could not be confirmed.
Workers complaining of small bonuses at an LG Display factory in the eastern city of Nanjing went on strike in late December, halting some production, the company said. Employees returned to the plant by December 28, two days after a labour rights group said the strike began, after LG Display posted notices saying year-end bonuses would be equal to "200 percent", apparently equivalent two months' salary.
SHENZHEN HAILIANG STORAGE PRODUCTS CO LTD
Nearly 1,000 workers at Japanese-owned Shenzhen Hailiang Storage Products Co Ltd in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen protested on December 5, demanding compensation matching their length of service following a change in the facility's ownership.
Workers at the Hitachi Ltd subsidiary complained their official years on the job had been cut to zero after the company bought a remaining stake and took full control of operations.
More than 200 workers at an electronics plant in Shanghai's Pudong district owned by Singapore's Hi-P International staged a strike on November 30 and into early December to protest what they said was a plan for mass layoffs.
Strikers told Reuters they had refused to sign agreements stipulating that their jobs would be terminated by the end of 2011 without compensation, adding that the company planned to relocate the plant within the city and hire new staff. The company said in a statement that it was in talks with workers and expected the matter to be "resolved shortly".
Asahi Shimbun, Thurs Jan 5 2012