LG Display plant in eastern China hit by strike

BEIJING/SEOUL Wed Dec 28, 2011 8:25am EST

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BEIJING/SEOUL (Reuters) - Workers at an LG Display factory in eastern China have gone on strike, halting some production, the company said on Wednesday, in the latest action by China's increasingly assertive workforce.

A spokeswoman in Seoul for the South Korean company, Claire Ohm, confirmed the labor dispute after an earlier report by the New York-based China Labor Watch, which said the strike began on Monday, triggered by rancor over year-end bonuses workers say favor South Korean staff.

"Some of our production has been suspended", Ohm said about the Nanjing plant.

China's industrial workers, many of them migrant laborers struggling to establish a foothold in urban areas, have resorted increasingly to strikes in recent years, particularly against foreign-owned companies.

Ohm did not say how many workers had stopped work or how much production had been curtailed.

"We and the Nanjing city government are jointly negotiating with workers to smoothly reach an agreement and we expect the problems to be resolved soon," she said.

While South Korean staff at the factory received the equivalent of six months' wages, Chinese workers received the equivalent of one month's pay, said an email from China Labor Watch, which campaigns for improved labor conditions.

"The strike is still ongoing, despite threats made by management to close the plant entirely and prosecute the leaders of the strike," China Labor Watch said of developments up to Wednesday.

It said that 8,000 workers at the factory were on strike.

LG Display, the leading flat-screen maker, produces LCD modules for notebook computers and monitors at the Nanjing plant, Ohm said. The company has two other module plants in China.

PICTURS OF MASSED WORKERS

Chinese Internet sites circulated pictures said to be from the Nanjing plant, with hundreds of workers massed at a factory building and standing around a toppled Christmas tree. Reuters could not confirm that the pictures were from the plant.

Chinese workers have gained wage increases in recent years. But the gains have been offset by inflation and the pressures of paying for housing, schooling and healthcare in urban areas.

This strike, like previous stoppages, also reflects Chinese workers' ire about what they see as unequal treatment compared with foreign employees.

China's growth-focused government has often punished strikers for disrupting production and sullying the country's reputation for maintaining a cheap, disciplined workforce.

But strikes have become increasingly common and more tolerated by the central government, which has said workers' wages must grow to nurture more consumer spending.

Officials in several Nanjing government departments contacted by Reuters either said they had not heard about the strike or referred inquiries to other departments.

Earlier this month, nearly 1,000 workers at a Japanese-owned factory in southern China protested to demand compensation in accordance with their length of service after a change in the plant's ownership, according to media reports at the time.

A succession of strikes last year disrupted production at Japanese-owned vehicle parts plants across southern China.

(Reporting by Chris Buckley and Sabrina Mao in BEIJING, HyunJoo Jin in SEOUL and Jane Lee in SHANGHAI; Editing by Don Durfee and Ron Popeski)

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