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Toyota closes China factory

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Toyota Motor Corp closed a factory in China because of a supplier strike while workers at a Honda Motor Co affiliate agreed to return to their jobs with a promise of higher pay.

Walkouts have spread through foreign-owned industrial plants during the past month as workers demand higher pay, underscoring the shrinking supply of low-cost labour in the world’s fastest-growing major economy.

 

Strikes at Honda suppliers in China disrupted the Tokyo-based automaker’s production in the country and forced it to raise pay at three plants. Employees at Honda Lock (Guangdong) Co agreed last night to accept wage increases, said Takayuki Fujii, a Beijing-based spokesman for Honda.

“We aren’t striking anymore and decided to take the offer,” said a 23-year-old Honda Lock employee who identified himself only by the surname Huang. “It’s not much of an increase, but there’s nothing more we can do.”

Toyota closed its Tianjin factory at noon yesterday after a strike at supplier Toyoda Gosei Co in the city, said Mieko Iwasaki, a spokeswoman for Toyota, the Japan-based car maker.

Honda is trying to prevent the resumption of a strike at a fourth parts maker. Nihon Plast Co shut its Zhongshan, Guangdong province plant on June 17 after workers walked out demanding higher wages. They agreed late yesterday to return to work as negotiations continued, and operations resumed at about 9 pm Beijing time, Fujii said.

‘Copycat strikes’
“When strikes are successful, you do see replica strikes, copycat strikes,” said Geoffrey Crothall, a spokesman for Hong Kong-based advocacy group China Labour Bulletin. “I expect you’ll see more strikes in the coming weeks.”

Workers at Honda Lock, wholly owned by the car maker, began their walkout on June 9 and suspended industrial action on June 15. A Honda Lock employee surnamed Luo said the basic monthly salary has been increased by 200 yuan ($29.30) plus an 80-yuan allowance.

“It’s much less than what I expected,” Luo said, adding that there were no talks of more strikes. “I was hoping we would get at least 450 yuan more each month. About 80 per cent of the workers in there were very unhappy with the increase.”

Employees would probably join in should someone decide to start another strike because dissatisfaction is so high, he said.

Production unaffected
Honda’s car production wasn’t disrupted by the earlier Nihon Plast walkout, Fujii said.

Nihon Plast, based in Shizuoka, Japan, is 21 per cent owned by Honda, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The company also supplies Japanese car makers Nissan Motor Co and Suzuki Motor Corp, according to its website.