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Ron Delnevo's Blog
Ron Delnevo's Blog
Blogs » Ron Delnevo's Blog

The most worrying strikes

There has been much publicity in the last week or two about the threat of strikes by UK public sector workers.

The media has publicised great concern regarding the potential for a couple of badly disrupted days throughout the country, at places like Heathrow Airport. I have to say however that Heathrow always seems more than a little disrupted, so it may well be a case of "spot the difference" as far as seasoned travellers are concerned.

More seriously, a few strikes in the UK do not seem to me to be the most important of current industrial disputes.

If you want to see a really serious strike situation, look no further than China. Yes, no mistake, I do mean China.

Workers in a number of Chinese factories, including a number of shoe manufacturers, are currently withdrawing their labour over pay issues.

It seems that "basic" factory pay in China is usually very low; the workers depend on their overtime to make a living, something that is growing ever more difficult to do given rampant Chinese retail price inflation.

Now Chinese factories are slashing overtime, leaving their workers struggling to afford the basics of living and looking to strike action in order to fight for their rights.

Any factory striking in China involves a significant number of people; there are few small factories in the country. It is commonplace for one facility to employ between 20, and 30,000 workers - and more than one has been impacted.

It all adds up to a lot of unhappy citizens and a mass of placards, despite the lack of publicity in the West.

Let's not be fooled, however. Those factory strikes in China are infinitely more worrying that a few dreary days at Heathrow.

The rest of the World depends on a compliant Chinese workforce beavering away in their tens of millions, content with a relatively low standard of living. Low Chinese wages = low prices in Western shops.

Should Chinese workers fail to act out their role as willing labourers, it may ultimately cost many of them their jobs. Western retailers’ purchasing departments are already looking elsewhere for their cheap labour-driven low factory gate prices. Korea is the latest country to attract this attention.

However, many fear that China is in reality irreplaceable as the low cost supplier to the World. If that is the case, stand by for higher retail prices in UK shops very soon. As Chinese workers get richer, Western consumers will get poorer. That is the harsh reality few of us want to face but that has been grasped by at least some of our political leaders.

The Euro crisis too, is making many in our region worry about their future prospects. They are right to do so. There are no easy answers in a World where the shift of economic power to the East has been very pronounced.

The Western economies CAN recover much of the ground they have lost BUT this will only happen through a massive change of thinking and matching actions.

World trade is a good thing but every country must both give and take if it is to work. Those in the West have tended to see themselves as the owners of "intellectual property", which meant that others, elsewhere, had to do the hard labour. That game is now as outmoded as Trivial Pursuits.

The days of easy prosperity are gone. The hard work towards a better future must begin soon.

Let's get on with it.
 

Tuesday, 29th November 2011

Tags:   china  /  strikes  /  public sector  /  economy  /  ron delnevo  /  factories
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