Striking workers call for negotiations at multinationals

A series of major strikes at multinationals around ownership changes took place last month at plants owned by Coca Cola, Danone and Sony. While multi-city strikes at Coca Cola are ongoing, workers’ peaceful demands to negotiate at Danone and Sony were met with reluctant bosses and police intervention.

Workers are generally left in the dark in ownership changes, though their rights and interests are at stake. They are often concerned about long-standing grievances with their past employers, and the possibility of layoffs, wage cuts, and generally worsening conditions under their new bosses, and so raise the need for negotiations with their employers.

These incidents highlight the ever pressing need for companies, local governments, and in particular the ACFTU, the official trade union, to take workers’ requests to negotiate seriously, and engage in collective bargaining in good faith.

Workers at Sony furious with union

Several thousand workers went on strike on 10 November at Sony’s Guangzhou plant demanding negotiations following announcements that the plant would be sold off to a Chinese company.

The Guangdong provincial union sent representatives to the plant to intercede, and hundreds of riot police arrived on the scene. On 14 November confrontations between workers and police left many injured, and at least 11 workers were arrested.

Sony paid workers 1000 yuan to end the strike while also firing dozens of strike organizers. The Guangdong union declared their intervention a success, though on social media, workers claimed that the union had forced them to sign a resolution. One worker remarked “ACFTU, you have turned out too late! Did you only come because you were forced to show up?”

Robust workers met with bad faith bargaining

Dozens of workers at Robust water bottling factory in Guangzhou went on strike on 8 November following the sudden announcement that their factory, owned by French multinational Danone, would be sold to Shenzhen-based Win Holdings.

Management repeatedly refused to negotiate with workers. Government officials tried to discourage workers from raising such demands in a change of ownership, though workers cited numerous past cases, including the well-known example of Pepsi, where new owners initiated layoffs and pay cuts after the takeover.

When the company finally met with workers after two weeks on strike, riot police entered factory grounds and attempted to prevent workers from gathering. Several workers were injured, and one hospitalized, and two workers were fired by management.

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