TIANJIN, China — Workers at a Japanese-owned electronics factory in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin were on strike over pay and benefits for a third day Thursday, the latest in a spate of labor disputes as an increasingly restive workforce demands better conditions.
More than 100 workers in green uniforms, mostly women, were standing and sitting on the steps leading into the Tianjin Mitsumi Electric factory, which makes parts for electronic appliances. Its entrance was blocked by two police buses and the area swarmed with dozens of plainclothes security officials.
Handwritten signs posted on the factory gates called on owners to “Return Our Blood Money,” and for local leaders to give workers a fair wage.
Beijing is normally quick to crush mass protests but the labor strikes this summer have spread as the government tries to restructure its export-driven economy to become more self-sustaining though measures aimed at increasing the incomes of ordinary people.
Migrant laborers who have traditionally accepted low-paying assembly line jobs are having some success in extracting higher pay and better working conditions from foreign companies amid a tight labor market as China’s economy booms.
Another reason for the new assertiveness lies in the youthfulness of many current workers. Growing up in a time of relative prosperity in China, they refuse to simply eke out a modest living like those before them, but instead expect conditions more in line with their foreign counterparts.
“We’re on strike because the factory has never increased our wages and they keep increasing our workload. It’s too tiring,” a worker, who gave only her surname Wang, told The Associated Press when reached on her cell phone.