Nov. 24 (Bloomberg) -- Thousands of workers in southern China went on strike in the last week to demand higher pay and better treatment, disrupting work at companies including one that supplies equipment to International Business Machines Corp.
In Shenzhen, 1,000 workers went on strike Nov. 22 at a factory owned by a Taiwanese computer-parts maker after the company required staff to work overtime from 6 p.m. to midnight, New York-based China Labor Watch said in a statement. A day earlier, workers at a Shenzhen factory owned by lingerie-maker Top Form International Ltd. struck over wages and “unachievable” production quotas, the group reported. Last week, 7,000 workers at a shoe factory struck in Dongguan, the Hong Kong-based China Labor Bulletin reported.
Companies operating in Guangdong, China’s richest and most populous province, face both slowing global demand for their exports and increasing competition for workers from central and western China, home to many of the province’s migrant laborers, said Wang Erping, a scholar at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing who studies protests.
“For a long time there was surplus labor in Guangdong, allowing factories to keep wages low and extend working hours,” Wang said. “Now China’s middle and western areas have had a lot of growth, and are using local labor.”
China’s economic growth has slowed amid a cooling property market and the spreading sovereign-debt crisis in the European Union, China’s biggest trading partner. China’s manufacturing may contract this month by the most since March 2009, according to a preliminary purchasing managers index released yesterday by HSBC Holdings Plc and Markit Economics.
The electronics company where China Labor Watch said workers were striking, Jingmo Electronics Technology (Shenzhen) Co., makes keyboards, wireless cameras, hard-disk drives and computer displays, according to its website. When called today at 11:30 a.m, a woman who answered the phone said no one was working today and there was no strike. She then hung up without identifying herself.
According to its website, the company makes equipment for multinational firms including International Business Machines Corp. and LG Electronics. Ed Barbini, a spokesman at IBM, didn’t immediately return an e-mail seeking comment.
As many as 200 employees at Top Form’s Shenzhen plant staged a five-day strike over pay before returning to work, Kenny Suen, the Hong Kong-based company’s vice president of production, said in a phone interview yesterday.
The employees started their strike on Nov. 16 and returned to work Nov. 22, he said. The stoppage was over wages, he said without elaborating.
“The strike is now resolved,” Suen said. The impact was “insignificant” and the company can catch up on lost output “fairly quickly,” he said.
Shares of Top Form International fell as much as 9.6 percent in Hong Kong trading to 33 Hong Kong cents, the lowest on an intraday basis since July 2009, and were down 2.7 percent at the 12 p.m. trading break. The shares have fallen 51 percent this year.
Companies have faced increasing demands for higher wages from workers in China as inflation remains high, income inequality grows and real estate prices soar. In September, several hundred workers went on strike at a factory of lingerie maker Triumph International AG in the southern province of Hainan over a new employment incentive program.
Last year, workers at Guangdong-based suppliers to Japanese automakers including Honda Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. went on strike demanding higher wages.
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--Michael Forsythe, Vinicy Chan, with assistance from Jim Jia in Beijing and Aaron Ricadela in San Francisco. Editors: Nicholas Wadhams, Mark Williams
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