China, July 1 (Reuters) – A strike at a Japanese-owned electronics factory in north China crippled production on Thursday, widening the industrial unrest that has put manufacturers at odds with increasingly assertive workers.
Employees at the Tianjin Mitsumi Electric Co. factory continued a stoppage that began on Tuesday. Handmade banners with workers’ demands hung from the factory gate while about 20 workers gathered near a building entrance, cheering reporters outside.
The factory is wholly owned by Tokyo-listed Mitsumi Electric (6767.T), a maker of electronics components.
“Human traffickers are not welcome”, read one banner at the factory gate. “We want a pay rise” and “We want fair treatment” said others.
Mitsumi spokesman Yoshitsugu Murakami confirmed the strike at the north port city factory, but had no details about why the workers had downed tools or by how much production had been hit. ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ ^ TAKE A LOOK-China labour in the spotlight [ID:nSGE65103V] For a graph on China’s averages wages, click here ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ ^ The plant with 3,000 workers is the latest high-profile target in slow-burning but persistent labour unrest that has hit foreign-owned companies, often left vulnerable by tight supply chains.
Over past weeks, striking workers have demanded higher wages from car parts makers and other manufacturers, especially Japanese auto parts companies with operations in the south.
Workers, many of them migrants from poor villages, say their wages have not kept up with rising prices or the profits reaped by companies using China as a low-cost production base.
Police guarded the Mitsumi plant and stopped reporters from speaking to the workers inside, underscoring the sensitivity of the unrest for the Communist Party-run government, wary of unrest that could challenge its grip on power.
The striking workers at the Mitsumi factory were demanding higher wages and improved benefits, China’s official Xinhua news agency reported on Wednesday. [ID:nTOE65T083]
Japanese companies, with their usually tight supply chains, appear especially vulnerable to the industrial unrest. But a Chinese plant of New York-listed Ingersoll-Rand Plc (IR.N), which makes commercial air conditioning systems, was also recently hit by a three-day strike. [ID:nN28263020]
The Xinhua report on the Mitsumi strike did not say what level of pay rise the workers were demanding. One worker told Xinhua he received just 1,500 yuan ($220) a month after working two hours of overtime every working day and also working on Saturdays.
China’s domestic media have been largely mute about the strikes, apparently due to state censorship. But Xinhua has issued reports about the unrest on its English-language service.
Labour costs in China have been rising, partly encouraged by a government that wants to turn farmers and workers into more confident consumers, even as it tries to keep a lid on strikes.
Earlier strikes disrupted production at auto makers Toyota and Honda, and have laid bare the rising demands of China’s 150 million migrant workers, especially younger ones wanting their share of urban prosperity. (Writing by Chris Buckley; Additional reporting by Chris Buckley in BEIJING, Sachi Izumi in TOKYO, editing by Jonathan Thatcher)