domingo, 27 de fevereiro de 2005

Chineses fazem greve e causam disturbios...

...pelo direito a serem explorados. Quais eram mesmo os argumentos morais pela defesa de barreira comerciais à China?

China: Workers riot for the right to work overtime

"Taiwanese factories in Dongguan [a city between Hong Kong and Guangzhou and a major centre of manufacturing] are facing a problem. According to a news report in the United Daily in Taiwan, over a thousand workers at a factory, which produces goods for big brand names such as Nike, demonstrated for two days and damaged equipment and factory cars. 500 armed police arrived and quashed the riot. Several leaders were arrested.

The main cause for the riot was the limitation on working hours at the factory. The shorter hours have been requested by US companies so as to avoid criticism from various groups on long working hours. However, the mainly migrant workforce want to work longer hours so they can earn more. Consensus had been reached by the US companies, the Taiwanese-invested factory and local government that the maximum working hours per week should be set at 60 hours [which is still a breach of Chinese Labour Law, but less than other manufacturing plants]. However, this reduction in hours was unsatisfactory for the workers and the resulting riot was serious."

A number of points worth noting:

This was a riot about not enough overtime, and has implications for any project aimed at reducing 100-hour plus weeks for manufacturing workers. On just about every occasion I've spoken publicly on Chinese working conditions, an audience member inevitably states that migrant workers want to work as much overtime as possible and thus reducing their working hours is - in effect - an infringement on their rights. All well and good, except that employers often require well in excess of 60 hours per week from workers for a minimum wage. What's the balance between wages and hours? This protest suggests that in this factory at least people are going to have to go back to the drawing board.

This was a riot. And a big one; it involved 1,000 workers and resulted in a serious response from authorities. The number of protests are rising (by the government's own admission) but they are rarely publicised. We can thank some Taiwanese journalists for this story, but mostly these events pass by unnoticed by the outside world.

Although Nike has attempted to improve conditions in its suppliers' factories, it may still rely too heavily on top-down programs to achieve its goals. The question that needs asking now is how much input workers have had in this process. The riot suggests to me that all parties (US companies, investors and the local government - note that workers weren't mentioned in this tripartite system) may need to spend some time assessing workers' needs and aspirations.
Why hasn't this story made it into the Western media? It raises important issues that are, I am sure, right at this very moment exercising more than a few minds at Nike. We need a debate on this issue that includes Chinese workers - the very party that hardly gets a hearing. Until they riot...

Source: "Dongguan taiqi qian gongren fengchan chaoche jiaban shouru jianshao rebuman 500 jing zhenya [1,000 workers in a Taiwanese enterprise in Dongguan dissastisfied with overtime reductions shut down factory and burn cars, 500 police put down demonstration]," Ming Pao, 07 June 2004.

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