(Adds company statement in paragraph 5)
* Third day of strike at Japanese firm
* Police guard plant, block reporters
* Company says workers want higher wages, impact limited
* Firms with tight supply chain hit
By Tyra Dempster
TIANJIN, China, July 1 A strike at a
Japanese-owned electronics factory in north China crippled
production on Thursday, extending the industrial unrest that
has put manufacturers at odds with increasingly assertive
Employees at the Tianjin Mitsumi Electric Co. factory
continued a stoppage that began on Tuesday.
Handmade banners with workers' demands hung from the
factory gate and about 30 workers gathered near an entrance in
rain, cheering reporters outside. The factory is owned by
Tokyo-listed Mitsumi Electric 6767.T, a maker of electronics
"Human traffickers are not welcome" read one banner at the
factory gate. "We want a pay rise" and "We want fair treatment"
said other banners, some several metres long.
Mitsumi Electric said the factory, with over 3,300
employees, had stopped production because "some of its
employees demanded higher wages and improved benefits". The
company said it was talking with the striking workers, and the
"impact of the stoppage is limited at this point."
^ TAKE A LOOK-China labour in the spotlight [ID:nSGE65103V]
For a graph on China's averages wages, click
^ The factory is the latest high-profile target in
slow-burning but persistent labour unrest that has hit
foreign-owned companies, often left vulnerable by their
position in complex supply chains and by a tightening labour
Over past weeks, striking workers have demanded higher
wages from car parts makers and other manufacturers, especially
Japanese auto parts companies with operations in the south.
Workers, many of them migrants from poor villages, say
their wages have not kept up with rising prices or the profits
reaped by companies using China as a low-cost production base.
"These strikes show that workers feel more confident that
the labour market is moving in their favour," said Li
Changping, a former Chinese local official who studies rural
"Part of it is that they feel left out of the wealth, but
another part of it is that they feel they have gained enough
from rising wages that they can take a stand, demand a fairer
share," said Li, who now works for a non-government
organisation with an office in Beijing.
Police guarded the Mitsumi plant and stopped reporters from
speaking to the workers inside, and empty coaches were parked
outside the gate to block filming of the protest, underscoring
the sensitivity of the unrest for the Communist Party-run
government, wary of challenges to its grip on power.
There were no signs of production at the darkened factory,
but pelting rain appeared to deter workers from either coming
outside or turning up at all. Locals said they saw hundreds of
the Mitsumi workers milling around the plant on Wednesday.
Japanese companies, with their usually tight supply chains,
appear especially vulnerable to the industrial unrest. But a
Chinese plant of U.S. listed Ingersoll-Rand Plc, (IR.N) which
makes air conditioning systems, was also recently hit by a
It was unclear what level of pay rise the workers were
demanding. One earlier told Xinhua he received just 1,500 yuan
($220) a month after working on Saturdays and putting in two
hours overtime every working day. [ID:nTOE65T083]
"You have to be really willing to work. My daughter left
because she was too tired, they work more than ten hours
there," said the mother of one former employee, who like many
of the plants' workers, lives nearby.
China's domestic media have been largely mute about the
strikes, apparently due to state censorship. But Xinhua has
issued reports about the unrest on its English-language
Labour costs in China have been rising, partly encouraged
by a government that wants to turn farmers and workers into
more confident consumers, even as it tries to keep a lid on
Earlier strikes disrupted production at auto makers Toyota
and Honda, and have laid bare the rising demands of China's 150
million migrant workers, especially younger ones wanting to
secure a foothold urban prosperity.
(Writing by Chris Buckley; Additional reporting by Chris
Buckley in BEIJING, Sachi Izumi in TOKYO, editing by Miral