The Chinese government is gaining an unlikely ally in its effort to overhaul the economy: striking Chinese workers.
So far this year, the China operations of International Business Machines Corp., PepsiCo Inc., Wal-Mart Stores Inc., and Yue Yuen Industrial Holdings Ltd., a major supplier to Nike Inc. and Adidas AG, all have been idled by labor protests.
As outrage spread over the benefits shortfall, workers began using the QQ messaging service to spread protest plans. Many Yue Yuen workers already had other complaints, ranging from poor hygiene in the factory cafeteria to employment contracts that described them as “temporary” workers no matter how long they’d toiled there. Without proper full-time agreements, the workers were unable to register their children in the local schools.
Chinese leaders in Beijing who want to boost consumer spending often tolerate labor protests that are confined to wage and benefit demands and remain within the factory gates. That’s especially true if the employer is a foreign-owned corporation rather than a state-owned enterprise with direct links to local officials.