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30,000 Workers Strike in Dongguan, Robots Planned As Replacements

Posted: 04/18/2014 2:58 pm

robot worker labor factory

Labor strife in Guangdong can be had to generalize: as some labor disputes flare up and workers are granted concessions, other labor protesters are convicted for “disturbing social order”. And so, we have the following pieces of news, both announced recently.

There are currently 30,000 workers are on strike at the Yu Yuan Industrial shoe making factory complex in Dongguan, the Associated Press reports. Workers have been protesting the company’s lack of social security and welfare benefits, and have been staging periodic work stoppages at the factory since April 5.

Yu Yuan makes components used in shoes by Nike, Adidas, Reebok and New Balance in a gigantic complex made up of ten separate factories. The Nanfang had first told you about this labor dispute back on April 7.

SEE: Foxconn to Replace Shenzhen Workers with Robots

Striker Cui Tiangang, 31, was adamant on the demands made by the workers. Cui said, “We expect at least an explanation, to give us an answer… We will keep on striking if there is no offer.”

If true to claims made by the organizers, this protest is the largest strike of its kind to ever take place in China. As historic an occasion that may be, Cui’s solidarity for his fellow worker may just be a quaint notion in the not-too distant future.

An industrial development guideline issued by the Guangzhou municipal government is encouraging the use of robots instead of human labor by providing companies with cash rebates. In fact, Guangzhou plans to have 80 percent of all its manufacturing production to be performed by robots instead of humans by 2020.

READ: Strike by Sanitation Workers in Guangzhou
Leaves the City Messy, But Wins a Pay Raise

That’s not all: the Guangzhou government is proposing to construct two or three robot industrial development zones. Each of these in turn will make 100,000 robot units a year by 2020.

It’s simply great that waves upon waves of robots will be given the jobs necessary to provide for their robot families, but a reliance upon technology does not always solve the problem at hand as seen in the documentary about the decline of American prosperity, Robocop (1987).

Sure, it will be great to reap the rewards of a worker that won’t go on strike, and will neither arrest nor harm any senior executives of OCP. Luo Jun, executive chairman of the International Robotics and Intelligent Equipment Industry Alliance, predicts the annual output value gained from the robotics industry in China will equal 300 billion yuan (US$48 billion) in 10 years.

READ: Dongguan Workers on Strike at Samsung Supply Factory

However, industry experts are warning against an over-reliance upon the Western market and its technology as well as the danger of overcapacity. At that point, both robots and workers will be out of a job.

Manufacturing production is a huge industry for China and if this sector should ever suffer a economic breakdown with catastropic consequences, we may be referring to Robocop more often. If it isn’t “I’ll buy that for a dollar!” then it will be this:

“Riches, leave.”

Photo: Robotics Business Review

More stories:
Bra Workers Strike After Being Told to “Jump Off a Roof”
Another Suicide at Foxconn? Employee Jumps Off 9th Floor After Slitting Wrists
Another Worker Plummets to His Death At Foxconn
Guangdong Factory Workers Strike After Being Insulted By Boss


Labour Unrest Grows in Guangdong With Two More High-Profile Protests

Posted: 04/15/2014 7:07 pm

galanz factory riot demonstration wages rampage labor

A day before Guangzhou hospital security guards were convicted for disturbing social order by protesting low wages, workers at a Galanz factory in Zhongshan rioted due to unfair wages.

Yesterday, a Weibo post (now deleted) reported a riot had broken out in the dormitories at the Galanz factory during the early morning of April 14. 2,000 workers were said to be protesting against a low wage standard that was below than that promised during recruitment, 21st Century Business Herald reported.

However, the management at Galanz gave a different version of the incident. They confirmed that a protest had indeed occurred at the factory by the workers. However, instigated by workers who had been drinking, only approximately 200 workers got involved in the unrest while those not involved presumably had a difficult time trying to fall asleep.

At present, the unrest is over and an investigation is pending after police were called in.

As for what could happen if protests are taken too far: Several hospital security guards involved in a high-profile labor protest in Guangzhou last year were convicted today, Reuters reports.

After negotiations between the Guangzhou Chinese Medicine University Hospital and other workers would leave them with nothing, the convicted security guards climbed to the roof and threatened to jump before detained by police on August 19 of last year.

All 12 accused were found guilty of “disturbing social order”, but received comparably light punishments with the longest sentence being nine months. A lawyer for one of the convicted guards, Duan Yi, explained that China’s leaders are still liable to crack down on labor activists:

“They are sending a signal to society at large which is that as workers protect their rights, if they are even slightly extreme they could receive criminal punishment.”

As a family member pointed out, none of the convicted had put any other people in danger, and yet they have been incarcerated up until the trial today.

It would seem that a dialog between both labor and management is the way by which a compromise can be achieved, and yet such an outcome is not assured when management like Galanz occupies an infallible position. They had explained their stance on the rioting workers’ demands by saying:

The company will do its best to fulfill all the rational requests of its employees.

If it ain’t rational, it ain’t being fulfilled.

Photos: Weibo


Thousands strike at Nike, Adidas, Reebok factory in Dongguan over invalid contracts

Posted: 04/7/2014 9:02 am

Thousands of workers took to the streets on Saturday at a shoe making factory in Dongguan under the Taiwan-based Pou Chen Group when workers discovered that the factory has cheated them by using invalid contracts and signing up long-term workers with temporary staff social insurance schemes.

Yuyuan shoe factory in Gaobu Town in Dongguan is the biggest shoe making factory for more than 30 world famous sportswear brands such as Nike, Adidas, Reebok and Salomon. It has been operating in Dongguan since 1998 and currently has more than 60,000 workers, China News reported on April 5. It was also the factory where basketball legend Michael Jordan visited in 2004 on a China tour. 

One of the workers surnamed Li said he had been working in the factory for more than 10 years and was on a permanent work contract, but when he used the work contract as a proof to enroll his child into a local school, he was told the contract was not legally binding. Many other workers also reported similar instances, the report said. Migrant workers in Guangdong must present documents proving their long-term residency in the province, consecutive five-year records of social insurance fees, and one-child policy certificates in order to enroll their children into local schools, according to article 27 in the province’s laws managing migrant workers.

In addition to cheating workers by using invalid contracts, workers discovered that many of their social insurances schemes were downgraded to temp staff packages. According to the report, the downgrades were not only discovered in one of Yuyuan’s factories, but several other factories under Yuyuan as well. Workers had been negotiating with the factory, but nothing fruitful had come of it. It eventually escalated into Saturday’s protests.

Meanwhile, insurance standards in the factory also vary, according to the report. One of the workers surnamed Jiang said she paid more than RMB 40,000 ($6,440) for her insurance package, while another worker, who enrolled in the factory around the same time Jiang did, only paid a little over RMB 10,000 ($1,610). It was unclear what kind of packages Jiang or her coworker were entitled to.

One person in charge of one of the factories at Yuyuan declined to comment and said the factory is scheduling another round of negotiations with workers on April 14. The factory’s production has so far been uninterrupted by the protests.

Home page and content page photo credit: Net Ease 


Dongguan workers on strike at Samsung supply factory

Posted: 03/31/2014 7:00 am

Two years ago, South Korean electronics giant, Samsung Electronics Co. was accused of exploiting child labour in several of its Chinese supply factories. Samsung is once again embroiled in labour scandal and unrest as workers from one of its Dongguan supply factories has gone on strike, demanding higher salaries and better social insurance.

Net Ease Finance reported on March 30 that a large-scale worker strike took place on March 29 in Samkwang Science & Technology Co. The company has more than 1,000 employees and manufactures mobile phones and DVD players for Samsung.

One of the workers on strike told the news portal that the Dongguan company deducts RMB 80 (or 8%) from a seasoned worker’s monthly RMB 1,000 salary for social insurance, which the worker claimed to be a large share, the report said.

The report did not specify how many workers participated in the strike and there was no comment from the Dongguan company or Samsung.

In 2013, Samkwang was accused by US-based China Labor Watch of owing payments to workers, discrimination against men, pregnant women, ethnic minorities and applicants over 39 years old, Business Week reported.

Samsung has more than 200 manufacturing suppliers in China. Back in 2012, China Labor Watch accused the Korean company of hiring child labor at six of its plants and two of its suppliers in China.

Here is a photo of the strike scene from Net Ease:

Home page and content page images from Net Ease 


Dongguan students angry at being sent to factory production line for “internship”

Posted: 12/30/2013 11:00 am

Students at the Dongguan Institute of Technology have complained about being made to do factory production line work during an internship arranged by the university, Nanfang Daily reported last week.

The freshmen students at the institute’s electrical engineering departments told the paper they had been made to work on a factory production line, which made them wonder why they were doing such a course. They had to complete the internship to be able to take their degree.

A representative of the university explained that the students had been entered into the “elite class” at the factory, meaning the work wasn’t all unskilled. The university also explained that the students were being given a lesson in “corporate culture.”

The students also claimed they had been deceived in being told that the only work placement would be in the fourth and final year of their four-hour course. There is some suspicion among the students that the university is making money from the factories.

The university denied this and said the students on the internship would be getting paid 68 yuan an hour, which was less than the factory’s other workers but more than the city’s minimum wage.

The head of the electrical engineering department, Professor Li, said the students on the internship would still be taking classes. Moreover, insurance was provided to them for free while they were working at the factory.

Maybe these kids have had it too easy.


Factory in Dongguan puts cameras in the bathrooms to catch smokers

Posted: 11/14/2013 11:00 am

A factory worker in Dongguan has revealed that security cameras are used in the bathrooms at his work in an attempt to catch smokers. The factory has confirmed the claims, Shaanxi-based media have reported.

A security guard is sent around to do this, image courtesy of Nanfang Television.

Xiao Peng told reporters that if security cameras found him or one of his colleagues smoking in the bathroom, the foreman would be waiting at the door when they came out. If caught once they get a 500 yuan fine (the minimum wage in Dongguan is just over 1500 yuan a month), and if caught twice they get fired.

A representative of the factory explained that the premises had a designated smoking area, so workers should simply use that.

Philip Brown, a tenured Economics professor, lost his job at Colby College in Maine, USA after being caught filming female students in the bathroom during a trip to China. He was also labelled a pervert in international media.

Is this Dongguan factory really any better?


Food warehouses burn down in Foshan, nearby residents evacuated

Posted: 07/10/2013 10:04 am

A fire which started at a riverside food warehouse in Foshan, where cooking oil was stockpiled and dozens of people worked inside, raged for more than 10 hours Monday. Workers and nearby residents were evacuated as trees and surrounding warehouses also caught fire. No casualties were reported, according to China Daily.

Smoke billowed up some 20 metres into the air and other food warehouses were also burnt down, courtesy of China Daily.

The fire started at 5:40 a.m. and was finally put out at 4 p.m. Local environmental authorities claim that pollutants leaked into the river are not toxic.

Smoke billowed up some 20 metres into the air, courtesy of China Daily.


A 7 year-old drowns in Shenzhen, playmates flee the scene

Posted: 09/19/2012 7:00 am

A seven-year-old drowned after accidentally falling into a creek when playing with friends in Pinghu Municipality in Shenzhen on September 16, according to Southern Metropolis Daily.

After police searched the creek next to Pinghu Pingnan Railway, police found the body of the boy, Li Jianping. It later emerged that his three playmates had fled the scene without seeking help or even telling their parents.

When the body was found at 8 p.m., Li had already been dead for three hours, an autopsy showed. The opportunity to save him was wasted, even though there was a vegetable farmer working 30 meters away from the scene of the accident when it happened.

After finishing Sunday lunch, the boys parents had to go to work in a nearby factory and his 16 year-old brother was unwilling to play with a 7 year-old. After returning home for dinner, the parents noticed the boy missing, they asked a neighbour’s 7 year-old daughter where he was, and she said he had fallen into the water.

The family live in a close-knit community of workers from Liuzhou in Guangxi, so neighbours came together to search for the boy.

According to Li’s female playmate, he fell into the creek while they were playing and because he couldn’t swim he was immediately submerged and couldn’t scream for help. She tried to grab him but could not reach.

Their two companions, both boys, then saw the clothes and shoes that he had hung by the side of the water and hid them in a woods some 100 meters away, the children later confessed to their parents.

According to Hong Kong-based child psychologist Yang Guang blamed the tragedy on society’s failure to teach children how to act during a crisis. She also blamed lack of respect for human life in China.

On the evening of the tragedy, Liu’s family burned all of his photographs, saying it would be too painful to look at them.

He was consistently an A-student and was so adorable that his parents’ colleagues often insisted he come to the factory so they could hold him, according to his mother.

A photograph of Li Lianping taken on a mobile phone on his 9 year-old brother’s birthday


Another suicide at Foxconn? Employee jumps off 9th floor after slitting wrists

Posted: 09/17/2012 3:59 pm

The Foxconn factory in Guanlan

Foxconn, the manufacturer of iDevices, Kindles, Samsung phones, tablets, e-readers and more, is coming under the gun once again after another of its young employees was found dead last Wednesday in Guanlan, very close to Shenzhen.

Reports say the man worked at one of Foxconn’s factories in Shenzhen.  He jumped off the 9th floor of an apartment complex – a private building unrelated to Foxconn – after slitting his wrists, according to IDG News which cited local media.  Other reports confirmed the man died and worked at Foxconn, but it’s not clear that he committed suicide as a result of his work.

Foxconn, which employees hundreds of thousands of people in Shenzhen, has come under fire in recent years after several of its employees committed suicide at its factories. PC World says the company is trying to improve, however:

Earlier this year, Apple announced the Fair Labor Association (FLA) would conduct audits of Foxconn factories, including one at Guanlan, which employs more than 70,000 workers.

In the FLA’s latest audit of Foxconn, the group said the company was steadily making improvements in conditions at its factory. Foxconn has also said the company is committed to worker safety, and has been making changes including raising wages and limiting workers’ overtime.

The company has however recently come under scrutiny for allegedly forcing vocational students to work at its factories, as part of its internship program. Foxconn denies the allegation, and has stated the workers are free to leave the program at anytime.

You can learn more about life in factories in the PRD in the latest edition of Nanfang TV.



Nanfang TV: “Factory Girls” author interviews Dongguan factory workers

Posted: 09/17/2012 12:58 pm

The iPhone 5 is set to be released in the United States, Hong Kong, and a few other places later this week, and the sparkly new phone is putting renewed focus on conditions inside the Chinese factories where the devices are made.

Leslie T. Chang wrote an excellent book on life inside PRD factories called Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China in 2008, and says workers inside these factories aren’t just toiling to meet the needs of decadent western consumers:

“We, the beneficiaries of globalization seem to exploit these victims with every purchase we make and the injustice feels embedded in the products themselves,” Chang says. “This simple narrative equating Western demand and Chinese suffering is appealing … but it’s also inaccurate and disrespectful. We must be peculiarly self-obsessed to imagine that we have the power to drive tens of millions of people on the other side of the world to migrate and suffer in such terrible ways … By focusing so much on ourselves and our gadgets, we have rendered the individuals on the other ends into invisibility, as tiny and interchangeable as the parts of a mobile phone.”

She argues these employees are also working for a better life for themselves, their families, and their offspring. You can watch one of her talks on the issue below, in the latest edition of Nanfang TV.

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