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Honda suspends production at 2 China factories

Tue, 06/08/2010 - 8:05pm
ELAINE KURTENBACH - AP Business Writer - Associated Press

Honda Motor Co. has suspended production at two of its Chinese factories due to a walkout at a parts affiliate, and could not confirm reports Wednesday that the dispute has been resolved.

The disruption at Foshan Fengfu Autoparts Co. came just days after Honda settled a two-week strike at a wholly owned parts supplier that had forced the Japanese automaker to freeze production at four car assembly factories due to a lack of parts.

Production was suspended Wednesday at the two factories of Honda joint venture Guangqi Honda Automobile Co. due to a "labor dispute," Honda said in a statement.

Honda spokesman Yoshiyuki Kuroda, in Tokyo, said he could not confirm a report by the official Xinhua News Agency that the 200 workers who had walked off the job at Foshan Fengfu had agreed Tuesday to return to work.

Kuroda said production at Honda's other two China car assembly plants was not affected because they had a sufficient supply of parts on hand.

Foshan Fengfu is a joint venture between Honda subsidiary Yutaka Giken Co., which owns about 70 percent, and Taiwanese firm Moonstone Holding Co.

Located in Foshan, a city in southern China's Guangdong province, where Honda has its joint venture with Guangzhou Auto Group, it makes exhaust pipes and other parts for Honda's Odyssey, Accord and Fit models.

Xinhua said workers there ended their strike after reaching an agreement for the company to draw up plans for wage hikes and not fire anyone involved in the strike.

The conflicts reflect rising tensions between workers and foreign companies that rely on China as a source of cheap labor and a fast-growing market. Companies in China are finding it harder to attract and keep workers, who are demanding better pay and working conditions.

Wage disputes and strikes are common in China, but rarely attract as much attention as the Honda-related strikes and other disputes that have surfaced in recent days.

Merry Electronics Shenzhen Co., a factory in Shenzhen, near Hong Kong, said Tuesday that it had resolved a strike that began over the weekend by workers who were disgruntled over pay and working hours.

"The strike is over now and the problem has been resolved," said a female staffer who answered the phone at Merry Electronics' factory, which has more than 10,000 workers. She would give only her surname, Zhen.

Workers were unhappy over working extra weekend shifts without extra pay and because the company had allegedly not followed up on an earlier promise to raise base pay to 1,050 yuan ($154) from the current 900 yuan ($132), the state-run newspaper China Daily and other reports said.

Video clips on a labor-oriented Web site showed hundreds of workers in white shirts and black pants blocking streets near the factory.

The latest spate of higher profile labor disputes followed news of 11 suicides and three suicide attempts — mostly by jumping off tall buildings — at Taiwan's Foxconn Technology Group, a contract manufacturer in China of iPhones and other name-brand electronics.

Labor activists accuse the company of having a rigid management style, an excessively fast assembly line and forced overwork, but Foxconn denies the allegations.

Foxconn — the world's largest contract maker of electronics — announced two pay raises for its Chinese workers after the recent suicides. It also is installing safety nets around buildings and hiring more counselors.

Protesters picketed Foxconn's annual general meeting in Hong Kong on Tuesday, accusing both the Apple Inc. supplier and computer giant of poor corporate ethics.

The 30 demonstrators held signs saying, "Workers are not machines. They have self-esteem," outside a hotel function room where shareholders of Hong Kong-listed Foxconn International Holdings Ltd. were meeting.

___

Associated Press writers Yuri Kageyama in Tokyo, Min Lee in Hong Kong and researcher Ji Chen in Shanghai contributed to this report.

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