1,000 out of 3,000 Chinese workers, producing products primarily for Apple and other multinationals such as the likes of IBM and LG, are striking at a factory in Shenzhen, owned by Taiwanese Jinguan Computer Group, who focuses on the production of peripheral devices.
A typical working day for the factory workers is supposed to be 7:00 - 11:30 am and then 1:00 - 5:00 pm, however workers were having to work further hours from six in the evening up to two in the morning, 100 to 120 hours overtime per month. Taking these extended shifts on Saturdays was denied as workers would have been entitled to being paid double time.
The workers claim that management is too demanding and verbally abusive and that this, coupled with heavy overtime in a dangerous environment, low-pay, zero-benefits and mass lay-offs of older workers, simply isn't worth it. We would tend to agree.
China Labor Watch is strongly urging clients of the factory, with focus on Apple as the primary client, with 300 dedicated workers on the keyboard peripheral assembly-line alone, to tackle the problem directly with Jinguan Computer Group. Director of the China Labor Watch Li Qiang stated that the factory itself must change the brutal management system as workers become aware of their rights.
Strikes are an increasing trend as of late, recently more than 400 female workers at a bra factory in the same region cut power and lay down their tools as a manager told a worker to "jump off a roof and go to hell." Just last week over 7,000 workers at a factory in nearby Dongguan, producing shoes for popular sporting brands such as Adidas, New Balance and Nike, went on strike over lay-offs and wage cuts.
Manufacturers in China are already questioning the future of cheap labour as minimum wages rise, with companies like Pegatron and Foxconn now planning to increase automation in factories. A move that has surprised a little as Foxconn chairman and president, Terry Gou, had once said: "Hungry people have especially clear minds."
With China looking to automate, we wonder two things; should western countries perhaps look to re-enter the low-cost manufacturing market as competition with cheap labour drops off and focus switches over to automation, a speciality in many Western countries, and; where in the world might cheap labour attempt to move to next?