Toyota Deals With Chinese Supplier Strike

SHANGHAI (AP) — A brief strike at a parts supplier to Toyota Motor Corp. ended in just a day, the company said Thursday, while a Honda Motor Co. supplier and its workers carried on with wage talks at a factory in southern China. The labor disputes come amid growing concern over increasing unrest among the migrant workers who are the backbone of the country's industrial sector.

SHANGHAI (AP) — A brief strike at a parts supplier to Toyota Motor Corp. ended in just a day, the company said Thursday, while a Honda Motor Co. supplier and its workers carried on with wage talks at a factory in southern China.

The labor disputes come amid growing concern over increasing unrest among the migrant workers who are the backbone of the country's industrial sector.

The strike at Toyota affiliate Toyoda Gosei Co.'s plant in the northeastern city of Tianjin began Tuesday and ended Wednesday after the company agreed to review the pay for its 800 workers, said Toyoda Gosei spokesman Tomotaka Ito.

Production resumed Wednesday afternoon, despite a national holiday, to make up for lost time, said Ito, who would give no further details.

Niu Yu, Toyota China's spokesman in Beijing, said Toyota's car assembly operations in China were not affected by the short-lived dispute.

Workers at Honda Lock (Guangdong) ended a strike and went back to their jobs earlier this week after the company agreed to continue with talks on their demands for wage increases. They were waiting Thursday for a reply from management about their demands, said a female staffer at the factory's human resources department, who refused to give her name.

Strikes at several China suppliers of Honda forced it to suspend car assembly intermittently in the past month due to a lack of parts.

So far, most of the auto-related labor disputes have been reported in southern China, near Guangzhou, where both Honda and Toyota have manufacturing bases along with their local partner Guangzhou Auto Group. Toyota has a separate joint venture in Tianjin with FAW Group.

Although Beijing has so far said little about specific labor disputes, earlier this week Premier Wen Jiabao signaled the leadership's concern, urging better treatment for the country's legions of young migrant workers.

"Migrant workers should be cared for, protected and respected, especially the younger generation," the official Communist Party paper, People's Daily, cited Wen as telling a group of migrant workers in Beijing.

In a commentary Thursday, the newspaper said China's economic model is facing a "turning point."

"Raising workers' income levels and adjusting the gap between rich and poor is not just an emergency response to protect stability," said the author Tang Jun, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a government think tank.

A labor law that went into effect in 2008 has accelerated an upsurge in workers' awareness of their rights. Meanwhile, there has been a generation shift between older migrant workers, who grew up in poverty and usually were the first in their families to seek non-farm work, and their children, who have higher expectations and less tolerance for low wages and harsh conditions.

Although public dissent is banned in China, authorities often tolerate sporadic, peaceful protests over local issues — perhaps as a way of relieving frustrations that could fester and erupt into violence.

The government also outlaws independent labor organizing outside its own All-China Federation of Trade Unions — an umbrella labor group.

Recent protests at mostly Japanese and Taiwan-managed factories have prompted a spate of commentaries, however, urging that the government-affiliated unions do a better job of mediating between workers and employers.

An emergency notice by the ACTFU to its members, reported by the official Xinhua News Agency, urged the unions to do a better job of protecting workers' rights and pushing for wage increases, especially in manufacturing.

But it also called for early intervention in disputes to "maintain harmonious and stable labor relations."

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