Strike at Citizen Watch factory finally ends after agreement is reached

By Jennifer Cheung. Chinese Website Editor

The eleven day strike at the Citizen Watch factory in Shenzhen has basically come to an end after an agreement was reached between the Japanese watch maker and the local government on 28 October, a worker at the factory told CLB.

The strike had escalated briefly the previous day when the Shenzhen police were called in and several workers were detained. The workers were released on the same day but could face dismissal later, the worker said.

“The majority of workers have now resumed working, with only about 100 workers in one department still on strike,” she said. “Most workers are satisfied with the agreement issued this morning.”

The agreement covers the main concerns of the factory’s 1,100 workers, including payment for a 40-minute break during overtime shifts, the provision of overdue pension and housing funds, and compensation for working in a high temperature environment. However, the agreement also states that workers who are still on strike in three days’ time will be dismissed.

The strike was sparked by a change in the salary computation method from piece-rate to a time-based system, announced on 16 October. After workers went out on strike on 17 October, the local government tried to mediate between the factory management and workers’ representatives. However, it took more than ten days to persuade the workers to resume working.

A worker told CLB that everyone had hoped to resume working as soon as possible, as they understood that the more time the strike consumed, the bigger the loss for both the factory and workers. But, she said, they would continue to strike until a satisfactory agreement could be reached.

The worker stressed that conditions at the Shenzhen factory were worse than those at the Citizen factory in nearby Dongguan, where a strike involving 2,300 workers broke out three months ago. Workers in Dongguan had to be at the factory on their own time for ten minutes before each shift but the workers in Shenzhen had to endure 40 minutes unpaid overtime for each day since 2005. In addition, workers from both factories complained about strict management, such as no toilet breaks except at designated times, and frequent punitive fines.

The Citizen strike in Shenzhen was the tenth reported this month, including three taxi drivers’ strikes, one bus drivers’ strike and one teachers’ strike. The majority of protests focused on demands for higher pay. See CLB’s 2011 strike map for more details.

See CLB’s research report Unity is Strength: The Workers’ Movement in China 2009-2011 for an overview and analysis of recent worker activism, including a profile of the strike at the Citizen factory in Dongguan.
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