In the last quarter of 2011, China has seen many more worker strikes than ever before. Ever since October 2011, a massive walk-out of a watch factory appears to initiate another wave of worker strikes in China. Then in November, thousands of workers walked off the job in a shoe factory. And in this month, it is further reported that nearly 1,000 workers downed their tools in a hard-disk manufacturing factory.
The above news is particularly poignant, as these strikes are now becoming typical in scale. As a matter of fact, during the last quarter of 2011, there were a lot more worker strikes reported by local and international media. These strikes demonstrate a common bond.
First of all, the worker strikes in China have become a cross-sector movement. These strikes affect industries from consumer products and beverages to information technology, which indicates that the workers in the manufacturing sectors are gaining better awareness of their legal rights.
Secondly, it appears that the worker strikes have grown in scale and appear to be well organized. Among these reported strikes, the least number of strikers in a single action exceeds 100 workers and the largest involving 7,000 workers. In addition, banners and slogans can be seen at protests indicating that the workers might have well prepared for such industrial actions.
The 3rd observation is related to the factors that trigger these industrial actions. On top of the traditional reasons of excessive overtime hours and wage issues, the business decision by the company’s senior management is seen as a new trigger that causes the workers to fight for their rights, given then workers feel insecure following the acquisitions by other companies or talks of relocating factories, all of which increase the workers’ fears of losing their benefits and jobs
Given the current wave of worker strike, the factory owners may ask. “Will my factory in China face worker-strikes some day in the future?” It’s possible, especially when the workers concerns are not properly addressed or when their complaint, be it legitimate or not, is completely ignored. In which case, modem-day management might need to improve communication. “Transparency in communication is of utmost importance for a healthy employee relationship management.” (Management Study Guide) If the details of the employees’ welfare had been properly communicated to the workers in factories, strikes might not have happened. In addition, if the internal grievance mechanisms function properly, then perhaps workers’ complaints over low wages or excessive working hours might not have escalated to the scale of that which occurred at the watch factory in October 2011
Looking ahead, the year of 2012 might bring more challenges to the manufacturing sector, especially when it comes to handling employee and management relationships