Chinese labor movement, management homework help


answer the questions based on this material in APA format 1.  Despite the current push in labor activism, do you believe that the Chinese government is really open to the criticisms of worker’s rights or do you believe that they would continue to restrict the flow of information and Internet and disrupt the labor movement?2.  Manufacturers are leaving China since the workforce turnover rates are high and wage rates are beginning to climb.  What can the factories in China do to achieve greater workplace retention and increase employee job satisfaction?  How can they compete with countries like Viet Nam?3.  Based on the article entitled, “The Rise of a Chinese Worker’s Movement”, why do you think technology has been so crucial in this new wave of activism for labor rights in China? 4.  After watching the video “iFactory: Inside Apple” what are your thoughts about the working conditions at Foxconn? What impact might a labor union have on Foxconn and their employees?


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LABOR August 5, 2010, 5:00PM EST
Is the Right to Strike Coming to
Talks in Guangdong province could radically overhaul
labor laws—including legalizing strikes
By Dexter Roberts
The name gives no hint of the revolutionary changes afoot for
mainland workers. Yet the proposed Regulations on the Democratic
Management of Enterprises, now being debated by the Guangdong
Provincial People’s Congress, could give Chinese labor the
ultimate—and until now taboo—bargaining tool: an officially
sanctioned right to strike. “This has been a no-go area in China for
decades,” says Robin Munro, deputy director at the Hong Kongbased China Labour Bulletin. All Chinese workers belong to one
union, but it wields little power. “This is the first time ever Chinese
authorities have said it is O.K. to strike.”
The draft law could take effect by this fall in Guangdong, the
industrialized coastal province where Honda (HMC) workers in June
illegally and successfully struck for higher wages. The proposed law
is seen by many activists and researchers as a trial balloon before a
possible national rollout. The rules: If one-fifth or more of a
company’s staff demands collective bargaining, then management
must discuss workers’ grievances. Before talks begin, the union must
elect local worker representatives. Until now, union reps came from
management ranks.
The next section of the proposed law ventures into even more radical
territory. For six decades, picketing and disrupting production have
been illegal and subject to harsh punishment. Under the Guangdong
proposal, as long as workers first try negotiating and refrain from
violence, they’re allowed to strike.
Though the draft could still get watered down, the fact that officials
are even considering legalizing strikes signals a sea change. The
party’s moves are an attempt to recognize—and regulate—what is
already happening. “Every month there are hundreds of strikes,” says
Chang Kai, a labor relations professor at Renmin University of China
who advised the Honda workers. “What the government is concerned
about is whether it can control these strikes or not.” Formalizing
workers’ rights could also advance China’s goal of rebalancing the
economy. “There is a new emphasis on how to reduce the wage gap
and get consumers to spend more,” says Chang-Hee Lee, an
industrial relations expert at the International Labour Organization’s
Beijing office. “This is not very easy to accomplish unless workers
have more bargaining power.”
The bottom line: A proposed law being debated in Guangdong could
greatly strengthen the bargaining power of Chinese workers.
Roberts is Bloomberg Businessweek’s Asia News Editor and China bureau
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MANUFACTURING May 13, 2010, 5:00PM EST
Why Factories Are Leaving
A labor shortage is trimming margins for exporters, who
are moving to Vietnam, India, and elsewhere
By Dexter Roberts
As costs climbed in Taiwan two decades ago, Ben Fan moved his
lighting factory to take advantage of China’s cheap labor. Now, with
Chinese wages on the rise, he’s moving again. “It’s just like what
happened in Taiwan,” says Fan, chairman of Neo-Neon Holdings,
which sells lamps and lighting fixtures to big retailers including Home
Depot (HD), Target (TGT), and Wal-Mart (WMT). “Chinese don’t want
to work in factories anymore.”
So Fan is expanding his factory in Vietnam, where wages are $100 a
month, one-third what he pays in China. He plans to shift 85 percent
of his production across the border, and by December he’ll have
8,000 workers in Vietnam—up from 300 a year ago—and just 5,000
in China, down from 25,000 in 2008.
Over the past two years, millions of jobs have moved to China’s
interior or elsewhere in Asia as factory owners try to cut costs. In
Guangdong, the mainland’s top exporting province, wages have
almost doubled in the past three years, and more than half the
factories can’t find enough workers. The number of migrants who
traveled to coastal provinces for work fell by 9 percent last year, to 91
million. “This lack of labor will only get worse,” says Willy Lin,
chairman of the Textile Council of Hong Kong, a trade association.
Factory owners complain that the higher wages are devastating
profits, especially as their customers continue to squeeze them for
lower prices. “Wal-Mart won’t raise what they pay us,” says Poh-Heng
Toh, general manager of teddy bear producer Lovely Creations.
Another Wal-Mart supplier, jewelry maker Profit Grand, has cut its
staff to 450 from 600 largely because it can’t find workers at the rates
it’s willing to pay, says Chairman Hsu Chi Lin. Wages, Hsu says,
have risen from 2 percent of total costs a decade ago to 12 percent
today, while net margins have fallen from 15 percent to about 8
percent. Factory owners are also worried about a potential
revaluation of China’s currency. The yuan is up 21 percent vs. the
dollar since 2005, and many economists expect it to rise an additional
5 percent this year.
While China’s growth—11.9 percent in the first quarter—is a factor in
the labor shortages, they likely won’t disappear once the economy
cools. The country’s one-child policy means fewer people are joining
the workforce. Tax breaks for farmers and subsidies for companies
setting up in the interior have allowed more people to find work near
home. And a growing service sector means greater opportunities lie
beyond the factory gate. “The younger generation is trying to get
work that is much easier—waiting tables in restaurants or working in
supermarkets,” says Charles Yang, general manager of Apache
Footwear, which makes shoes for Adidas.
Many companies are finding ways to pare costs. Electronics giant
Foxconn Technology, which makes the Apple (AAPL) iPhone and
handsets for Motorola (MOT), has opened new plants in China’s
north and west, far from its home base near Hong Kong. Shoemaker
Apache has moved simpler work, such as stitching the upper portions
of sneakers, from Guangdong to lower-wage factories in the interior.
Apache is also expanding a plant in Chennai, India, that will produce
at least half its shoes within five years. The company’s Chinese
workforce will soon drop below 10,000, from 18,000 two years ago,
general manager Yang says. “We’ve been squeezing like hell to get
more out of the system,” he says.
No one expects manufacturing to disappear from coastal China. The
networks of suppliers for industries from textiles to electronics—
makers of buttons, zippers, wires, connectors, and the like—can’t be
easily replicated elsewhere. Many companies plan to keep more
sophisticated work in eastern China while moving basic tasks
elsewhere. Neo-Neon, for instance, expects to boost production of
LED lighting in China even as it expands in Vietnam. Chinese
workers today “want easy jobs and higher pay,” says Fan. “We can
give them that if we make more expensive, higher-margin products.”
The bottom line: Rising wages in coastal China are spurring
manufacturers to open factories in cheaper places, though more
advanced production may stay.
With Bob Chen
Roberts is Bloomberg Businessweek’s Asia News Editor and China bureau
Using Propaganda to Stop
China’s Strikes
Government and industry search for ways to calm the
country’s factory hands
By Dexter Roberts
Less than two years after the worker suicides at electronics giant
Foxconn and a strike at Honda (HMC) suppliers in Guangdong
province, labor troubles are again roiling China. On Nov. 17 around
7,000 workers at a Taiwanese-owned New Balance supplier in
Dongguan protested plans to relocate production to Jiangxi province
and cut bonuses. Dozens of workers were injured when police moved
in, according to reports and photos posted on the Internet. Five days
later, 1,000 workers halted production to protest overtime rules at a
Shenzhen company that, according to its website, supplies HewlettPackard (HPQ). In Shanghai, women workers at Singapore-owned
Hi-P International, a supplier for Motorola Mobility (MMI) and others,
struck on Nov. 30 over a planned shift of part of production to Jiangsu
province. (Motorola confirms the incident, and says it is not directly
involved in working toward a resolution.) “We are seeing an upsurge
in worker activism that exceeds anything since the summer of 2010,”
says Geoffrey Crothall, communications director at China Labour
Bulletin, an advocacy group in Hong Kong. Some 180,000 riots,
strikes, and protests occurred in 2010, according to Sun Liping, a
professor at Beijing’s Tsinghua University.
On Dec. 1 the government announced the first contraction in
manufacturing since 2009. “As the environment goes from bad to
worse, a lot of factories want to find a way out,” says Willie Fung,
chairman of Hong Kong bra-maker Top Form International. “They
want to downsize, shut down, or move somewhere else, and this
sparks labor disputes.” A strike at Fung’s Shenzhen factory ended
after he agreed to a holiday bonus of $189 each for 500 workers.
China’s leaders don’t want strikes to stoke broad social unrest. That
could be tricky, because the new generation is ready to assert itself.
The young are less tolerant of long hours and assembly line jobs and
more prone to job hopping, says Christian Ewert, president and CEO
of New York-based International Council of Toy Industries CARE
Foundation, which monitors working conditions and whose members
include Walt Disney (DIS), Mattel (MAT), and Lego.
In Shenzhen, Philips (PHG), HP, and Dell (DELL) are working with a
Dutch government-supported program to improve labor conditions
while raising productivity. As “labor tightens in China, the industry
needs to pay more attention to the worker,” says Sonny Kwok, a
Philips senior vice-president. Consultant Infact Global Partners, hired
to run the initiative, is designing training programs at 100 factories
employing 500,000. Infact plans to interview departing workers to find
out why they change jobs so often, and get supervisors to assess
themselves, says Managing Director Ian Spaulding. “In an
environment where you have 10 to 20 percent turnover a month,
managers start to think of workers as machines. That creates
resentment on both sides.”
Ewert’s group earlier this year launched a pilot program to teach labor
law to workers and middle-level managers at factories that supply
overseas corporations. These local companies have codes imposed
on them by the multinationals about paying overtime properly, how
many can sleep in a dorm, even how much meat the cafeteria serves.
The group’s “edutainment” videos have a Smurf-like figure who
introduces dramas with real workers as the actors. In one segment, a
line worker confronts a manager for holding a meeting in a noisy
factory. Later a guard stops the protagonist for not having a badge,
leaving him seething. His pretty girlfriend and her pal, who also work
at the plant, persuade him to check the regulations on the bulletin
board. The manager he had berated proves a friendly advocate who
takes him to human resources to plead his case: happy ending. “With
a good worker-management relationship, factories can be just like
home!” says the blue narrator.
These programs have their skeptics. Speaking of Infact’s efforts,
Chang Kai, a professor of labor relations at Renmin University of
China in Beijing, says that helping workers negotiate more effectively
is a sensitive issue for the government, which fears such attempts
could empower workers too much. Adds Bob Bainbridge, who until
early 2011 worked for Apple policing suppliers for worker abuses,
“Many times you will find some senior management that want to do
the right things. But mid-level management and line managers resort
back to more dictatorial ways.”
The government is expanding the Party-controlled official union—still
a largely toothless organization, according to Chang Kai. Wal-Mart
(WMT), Dell, and Motorola have already let the union in.
Policymakers want 80 percent of all companies to have collective
bargaining agreements by 2013. “We want to guide the expectations
of our migrant workers,” says Yang Hongshan, deputy director
general of the human resources and social security department of
Guangdong province. The official union is training tens of thousands
of negotiators to help workers bargain over wages.
The only sure strategy to stop strikes may be to raise pay. The latest
Five-Year Plan aims to increase the average minimum wage by at
least 13 percent a year. Or machines can replace workers. After
Hong Kong’s Milo’s Knitwear (International) added new Japanese
knitting machines at its Dongguan sweater factory, it reduced line
workers from 80 to 6. “All the headaches, the riots—gone,” says
Managing Director Willy Lin. “Machines don’t complain about their
The bottom line: China’s government wants almost all companies
negotiating collective wage agreements with workers by 2013.
With Bruce Einhorn
Roberts is Bloomberg Businessweek’s Asia News Editor and China bureau chief.
The Rise of a Chinese Worker’s
Spurred by the Foxconn suicides, and aided by an
exploding Internet, China’s labor ranks are organizing for
higher wages and more rights
By Dexter Roberts
A nondescript Beijing suburb was recently the venue for an evening
of radical politics. The New Labor Art Troupe, a performance group
with a cast of laborers, ran a graphic photo of a Foxconn worker who
had just killed himself. Poems were read commemorating the hard
lives of migrant workers in electronics factories and on construction
sites. A guitar and harmonica were hauled out and songs were sung
with titles like Marginalized Life, Industrial Zone, Working Is Our Glory
and Our Hell, Get Back Our Wages, and Fighting in Solidarity. Some
of the hundred or so assembled migrant workers, many of them
employed in small furniture factories around the capital, started
crying. The evening ended with the crowd standing up for a Chinese
rendition of the The Internationale, the old battle hymn of the
worldwide socialist movement. “The atmosphere was militant, but
there was no overt criticism of the government,” says University of
Hawaii political scientist Eric Harwit, who attended the two hour-plus
evening performance on May 28. “They seemed really sincere that
they were upset about migrant labor working conditions.”
The recent Beijing performance is just one example of the rising labor
activism now evident in China, activism that asserted itself in recent
weeks at the factories of Foxconn and Honda Motor (HMC). It
includes groups like New Labor, yet it also encompasses legal aid
and other support networks at scores of universities, law firms
focused on promoting worker rights, and countless migrant worker aid
associations. “Civil society organizations are growing more powerful.
They will push China to change,” says Li Fan, director of the Beijingbased nongovernmental organization World & China Institute. Li has
worked closely with labor groups as well as those pushing grassroots
The question is whether these groups can spawn a workers’
movement that has the organization and mass to challenge factory
owners across the country. Until a few years ago the Chinese
authorities broke up sporadic workers’ protests with relative ease:
Local officials arrested a few ringleaders, then quickly offered
concessions to the rest of the strikers to stop the unrest. Above all
else, the Chinese security apparatus made sure that the leaders of
labor protests in Shenzhen, Harbin, and elsewhere didn’t connect
with each other to form a national movement.
Today’s young workers may be harder to corral. China now has 787
million mobile-phone users and 348 million Internet users—and
migrant workers in their twenties are far more aware of world
developments than their parents. The younger generation can follow
labor actions as they unfold, whether in China’s northeastern Rust
Belt or southern Pearl River Delta. “They have access to information.
They use their mobile phones for messaging, to send pictures and
video, and to go online,” says Chinese Academy of Social Sciences
journalism professor Bu Wei, who is researching the use of media by
migrant workers.
The more assertive workers have also benefited from a huge push by
China’s state-run media to popularize knowledge about the tough
labor contract law promulgated in 2008. As a result, young workers
know what’s owed them, whether it be guarantees of double pay for
overtime or safer working conditions. “Every worker is a labor lawyer
by himself. They know their rights better than my HR officer,” says
Frank Jaeger, a German factory owner who produces cable
connectors in Dongguan in Guangdong Province. Adds Harley
Seyedin, president of the American Chamber of Commerce of South
China: “There are Internet cafés everywhere, so the workers can get
information. They are starting to ask for more. The days of cheap
labor are gone.”
The workers’ ranks are now filled with self-starters like Xu Haitao. A
28-year-old technician in a small metal components factory in
Shenzhen, Xu takes a class on labor law and worker rights every
Sunday at a local migrant workers support center. “Of course, more
and more workers understand their rights these days,” says Xu, who
surfs labor law sites regularly. “Last year I started using my own
computer. Computers are not expensive anymore. I bought the
pieces and constructed my own.” Xu wants more workers to educate
themselves. “Many capitalists and factory managers still abuse our
rights,” he says. “If all the workers knew the labor law—all 600 million
of us—then many factory owners would go bankrupt.”
These self-educated workers now have new allies in China’s
universities. A decade-long effort by Beijing to expand the number of
students in China’s universities has brought more and more of the
rural population—and those with relatives and friends who still work in
the factories—onto Chinese campuses. That has driven a wave of
support at colleges for migrant workers, points out CASS professor
Bu. Students studying law, political science, and social science are
forming support groups and even provide legal aid for workers, to a
degree not seen before. One of Bu’s graduate students, for example,
has a brother working for the Foxconn facility near Shanghai.
Many faculty members support their students’ activism. “From the
Foxconn tragedy, we hear screams coming from the lives of a new
generation of migrant workers, warning the entire society to rethink
this development model leveraged upon the sacrifice of people’s
basic dignity,” warned an open letter dated May 19 and signed by
nine sociologists from prominent schools, including Peking and
Tsinghua Universities. “We call for national and local governments to
implement practical measures that allow migrant workers to integrate
and establish roots in the city…sharing the fruits of economic
development they themselves created.”
It may be a long summer for Chinese officials trying to contain this
unrest. On June 3 more than 20 women workers were detained when
police tried to shut down a two-week strike at a formerly state-owned
cotton mill in Pingdingshan, Henan. Thousands of workers had
stopped operating the looms to express their anger at their factory’s
privatization and to demand higher wages, reports the Hong Kongbased China Labour Bulletin. Although workers are back on the line
at the Honda transmission plant that strikers had shut down, their
language is anything but con …
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