Since 17 April more than 10,000 workers from the Japanese-invested Uniden Electronics factory in Fuyong Town, Shenzhen, have been striking to win the right to set up their own trade union in the factory. This demand was originally conceded in 2000 but has never been allowed. They also want sick pay and maternity leave, permanent contracts and quality meals. This is the first time Chinese workers have ever staged a strike specifically in order to form a trade union.
The workers, mostly women, began their strike after managers at the Japanese cordless phone making firm, which supplies in large quantity to the giant American retailer Wal-Mart, distributed a statement to the workforce containing "threatening and insulting language".
The current strike follows another in December 2004 where workers won their demands only for these to be reneged upon by a new Japanese manager.
There was a similarly large-scale workers' protest action at the Xianyang Huarun Textile Factory in Xianyang city, Shaanxi Province, in September and October last year. About 7,000 workers, mostly women, staged a seven week-long strike against the management's attempts to impose unfair new labour contracts.
In the final days of the strike, more than 20 of the workers' leaders were arrested after the local authorities learned that they were about to elect a factory-level trade union.
However, there has been a softening of central government policy on the handling of "sudden incidents" in society. The local authorities eventually freed all of the worker detainees from the Xianyang Huarun Factory.
Will the Shenzhen government avoid confrontation with the workers at Uniden? Riot police have already been sent to stop the workers going into the streets, it is said, to stop them sparking off anti-Japanese riots.
* Taken from China Labour Bulletin