Did the southern China auto-parts factory strike that paralyzed Honda Motor Co.'s car production in China mark a turning point in China's labor movement?
According to one expert: Not really.
Large, well-organized strikes like the one that recently occurred at Honda Auto Parts Manufacturing Co., the engine gear factory near Guangzhou that supplies some 80% of the transmissions Honda uses to assemble cars in China, have been happening in China since the 1990s.
What has transpired since mid-May at Honda's parts factory is 'nothing radically new' on the country's labor front, said Mary Gallagher, a professor of political science at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, who is an authority on labor issues in China.
'Real changes will come when we see change in how the workers are represented,' Gallagher said. Factories like the Honda transmission plant in southern China have government-sanctioned labor unions, or 'gong hui,' but these are usually friendly and sympathetic with management.
'We are not going to recognize change until the Chinese government tolerates a more autonomous worker organization,' and allows it to be active on a more long-term basis, Gallagher said.
The leaders of the strikers at the Honda parts factory were allowed by local government agencies and other authorities to stage a fairly aggressive strike for higher wages, which they did receive from Honda management.
But their movement appears to have been put down quickly: Some of the strike organizers, including Tan Guocheng, a 24-year-old worker from Hunan, were fired for causing the unrest at the factory, according to Tan, who spoke on the phone with The Wall Street Journal.
A Honda spokesman confirms that Tan and another strike leader were fired on May 22 but says the reasons were unrelated to the strike. The spokesman, Takayuki Fujii in Beijing, said the two Chinese strike leaders were let go for violating the plant's in-house work and contract rules. Fujii declined to elaborate and would not comment on reports that a score of other workers at the parts plant have been fired.
Workers who go on strike asking for higher wages and stipends generally receive some sympathy from the government and the media, said Gallagher, the University of Michigan professor. But 'typically both the company and the government would deal harshly with the leaders to put down any sort of movement toward autonomous labor activities, and things would go on as before,' she said.
That assessment appears to have been borne out of the events at the Honda parts factory in recent weeks as well.
中国南方汽车配件厂的工人罢工使本田汽车(Honda Motor Co.)在华汽车生产陷入瘫痪，该事件是否标志着中国的劳工运动出现了转折点？
Reuters近日发生的本田罢工事件改变了中国的劳工政策吗？像近期广东佛山本田汽车零部件制造有限公司(Honda Auto Parts Manufacturing Co)发生的这种组织有序、规模巨大的罢工，在中国从上世纪90年代以来不断发生。本田在华组装汽车所需的80%的传动装置配件都由佛山这家发动机配件生产厂供应。
密歇根大学(University of Michigan)政治学教授、中国劳工问题领域的权威人士盖勒(Mary Gallagher)说，本田汽配厂自5月中旬以来发生的罢工事件在中国的劳工领域并非完全新奇。