Chinese autoworkers strike to demand higher wages from Honda, 2010

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Timing
Time Period:  
May
2010
to
July
2010
Location and Goals
Country: 
China
Goals: 
Higher pay and better working conditions
 

In 2009, China became the world's fastest growing automobile market. One corporation that contributed to the market's remarkable growth was Honda Motor Corporation. Honda, a Japanese corporation that first entered China in 1999, had four car plants in China. In 2010, sweeping labor unrest spread throughout China and workers at Honda's four car plants seized the opportunity to seek out higher pay and better working conditions.

On May 17, 1,900 workers from a transmission factory in Foshan, China went on strike. Every single worker at the factory joined the strike, demanding higher wages and better working conditions. Though the Chinese government had substantially raised the minimal wages for factory workers to $130 dollars per month, the workers felt that their wages were not fair. On average, Honda factory workers earned between $150 and $220 dollars per month, but the factory workers at Foshan wanted wages equal to those of assembly plant workers, who earned between $300 and $370 dollars per month. Workers also complained of having to wake up at unreasonable times to attend work and having to work in hot facilities with poor air-conditioning.

Ten days into the strike Honda halted production at all four car plants due to a shortage of transmissions. The result was a reduction in productivity of about 300 vehicles per day. Consequently, on May 31, Honda announced its decision to increase the minimum monthly salaries at that site to $280 dollars per month. The majority of the workers welcomed the 24% raise in salary, but forty workers remained on strike seeking additional raises and a physical confrontation allegedly occurred between some of the strikers and union officials sent in by the government. Production resumed on June 2.

Workers once again challenged Honda on June 9, when 100 workers at a factory at Zhongshan walked out on strike. The factory, which specialized in the production of keys, locks, and other related parts, stopped production during the early morning. Two days later, reports suggest that 500 workers marched, picketed, and blocked roads outside of the factory before riot police arrived to disperse the crowd. Some of the workers had claimed that they wanted a legitimate union to represent them because the only unions allowed by the communist government were those formed by the communist government.

On June 14, the Zhongshan strike promptly ended as replacement workers began their first days of work. Some 100 workers held a rally outside the site as new workers entered. Honda agreed to raise the salaries at the site by 11% to $152 dollars per month.

Honda workers orchestrated a final strike at a factory that specialized in the production of gear shift levers. The strike began on July 12 and lasted until the July 22. During the strike, overall production continued at a regular rate. Once again, Honda agreed to raise wages of the workers at the site, but details of the increase were not disclosed to the media. The conclusion of the strike officially marked the end of the workers' fairly successful campaign against Honda for improved wages. Each striking site received some variation of a wage increase, but the magnitudes of the wage increase varied from site to site.

Research Notes
Sources: 
Agence France-Presse. "Third Honda auto plant hit by China strike" Agence France-Presse, 9 June 2010

Bradsher, Keith. "Parts strike forces a Honda shutdown in China" New York Times 28 May 2010

----. "Strike in China highlights gap in workers' pay" New York Times 29 May 2010

----. "An Independent Labor Movement Stirs in China" New York Times 11 June 2010

----. "With Concessions, Honda Strike Fizzles in China" New York Times 14 June 2010

Business Daily Update. "Strike hits 3rd Honda auto parts plant" Business Daily Update 10 June 2010

Gough, Neil. "Strike forces Honda to halt China factories" South China Morning Post 28 May 2010

Kyodo News International. "Strike at Honda lock plant in southern China continues" Kyodo News International 12 June 2010

McDonald, Joe. "Honda says China factory back to work after strike" The Lompoc Record (CA) 1 June 2010

Nation, The. "The Nation (Thailand): New strike threatens Honda in China" The Nation 9 June 2010

Reuters. "Honda China production still out after strike and clashes" Reuters 1 June 2010

Watts, Jonathan. "Chinese workers strike at Honda Lock parts supplier" Guardian (UK) 11 June 2010

Xinhua News Agency. "Some workers at Honda's China parts plant still on strike" Xinhua News Agency 31 May 2010

"Strike at Honda parts plant in China drags on." Agence France Presse. 20 July 2010.

"Honda says strike at China parts supplier over." Agence France Presse. 22 July 2010.

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Julio Alicea, 10/05/2011