Toyota says China car assembly plant unaffected by strike at supplier

The Associated Press ~ staff The News
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SHANGHAI, China — Toyota Motor Corp., the latest automaker to be hit by a strike at a China parts supplier, said Thursday its car assembly operations were not affected by the short-lived dispute.

The strike comes amid mounting concern over signs of increasing unrest among the migrant workers who are the backbone of the country’s industrial sector.

Niu Yu, spokesman for Toyota China in Beijing, said the strike at affiliate Toyoda Gosei Co. Ltd.’s plant in the northeastern city of Tianjin, had ended.

“So far, operations of our car assembly plant have not been affected,” Niu said.

Toyoda Gosei spokesman Tomotaka Ito said the strike at the plant, Tianjin Star Light Rubber and Plastic Co., began Tuesday and ended Wednesday after the company agreed to review the pay structure for its 800 workers.

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

The strike was the first reported for Toyota following strikes at several China suppliers of Honda Motor Co. that forced that Japanese automaker to suspend car assembly intermittently in the past month due to a lack of parts.

So far, most of the auto-related labour 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 labour disputes, earlier this week Premier Wen Jiabao signalled 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 labour 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.

Organizations: Toyota Motor, Toyoda Gosei Co. Ltd., Tianjin Star Light Rubber and Plastic Co. Honda Motor Co. Guangzhou Auto Group FAW Group Communist Party Chinese Academy of Social Sciences

Geographic location: China, Beijing, Tianjin SHANGHAI Southern China Guangzhou

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