Around 3,000 workers at a Nokia factory in Southern Guangdong have started a rolling programme of strikes and sit-ins to protest against the management who are bullying people into leaving their jobs.
Following a decision to sell its mobile phone division to Microsoft, Nokia bosses have made draconian changes to the staff rule book in what appears to be a deliberate ploy to force employees to leave their jobs in order to avoid paying them compensation when the inevitable job losses occur.
The deal with Microsoft was announced in September this year and following a vote of shareholders earlier this week, takes effect on January 1st 2014.
Tensions first arose in the weeks after the deal was agreed when over a thousand workers walked out, demanding changes to the rule book. An unnamed worker provides an example from Nokia’s new rules:
“We are facing punitive regulations that get harsher by the day. If you are five minutes late, there will be a warning. Two warnings and you are out of here. More than 100 hundred workers have been forced to resign.”
Earlier this week 3,000 workers started taking turns in staging peaceful sit-ins at the factory. They are refusing to work again until Nokia listen and back down. Ten people have been arrested and six injured following clashes with the police outside the factory. One of the picketing worker claims that:
“We lay down in the road and blocked vehicles from leaving, until a driver got out and told us he would drive over us. The factory management said they could afford the compensation if we were crushed to death. We all got very angry at this. Then they sent in the armed police to beat people up, the workers surrounded their vehicles, so the police took some of us sitting in the front row away and beat them up. The factory has already fired ten people for striking. They made the first person go through dismissal proceedings at midnight. Every time they come out they name someone who has been fired.”
There are now 59 reported cases of workers being dismissed for participating in the strike action. All workers have been informed that they are ‘violating work regulations’ by refusing to return to work and will be dealt with accordingly. One of the workers picketing the plant had this to say:
“They have no grounds for firing us. We’ve already chosen this road to walk on, so we will stick with it.”
Nokia errand boy, Doug Dawson, claims that:
“The company has held a number of sessions with its employees over the past few days to explain the situation and dispel the many rumours, and false statements. We have terminated the contracts of 59 individuals who elected not to return to work. The vast majority of the factories 5000 workers are at work and manufacturing operations are continuing.”
The workers say that this is not the case. They are claiming that no attempts at negotiation have been attempted by the management whatsoever. As part of the dispute the workers are demanding the restructure of their current trade union as it is run by the factory management.