August 6, 2010 / 7:02 AM / 9 years ago

Strike at Panasonic unit's Shanghai plant

SHANGHAI, Aug 6 (Reuters) - A small number of workers at a Panasonic PC.N(6752.T) subsidiary factory in China are on strike, employees and Hong Kong media said on Friday, but most of the plant is operating as usual with little impact on output.

The partial walk-out is the latest in a slew of strikes that have hit China's industrial hubs in recent months, as workers demand a bigger slice of profits.

It is one of the smaller disturbances so far -- earlier strikes have shut large plants for days at a time -- but it is one of the first reported in the Shanghai area where wages and conditions are generally better than in southern Guangdong province.

Around 70 or 80 workers at the plant belonging to Panasonic Electric Works 6991.T in the suburbs of Shanghai stopped work on Thursday and had yet to return to work on Friday, two employees who had not joined the stoppage told Reuters.

The factory has around 700 employees.

"They are having discussions with management," said one man on a break from production work, who declined to be identified because of a heavy security presence outside the plant.

The factory belongs to Panasonic Electric Works (PEW), which Panasonic is in the process of making a full subsidiary but which currently still operates separately. [ID:nLDE66R2CC]

PEW said the incident was more protest than strike, and only lasted one day, with operations back to normal on Friday.

A group of laid-off workers who were unhappy at their sacking turned up at the plant's entrance in a bid to prevent former colleagues going in, spokesman Toshiro Kurasawa said.

Local authorities told the company to close the factory for the day for safety reasons, which they did, he added.

The factory makes massage chairs, power tools, kitchen and bathroom fittings and doors, and one day of stoppage will have little effect on the business as a whole.

Hong Kong's Ming Pao newspaper said that workers on strike had gathered outside the factory with banner saying "I want justice" and "Treat workers well", but there had been not violence, citing eye-witnesses who posted accounts online.

The wave of stoppages at foreign-run factories reached a peak in May and June, but has not trailed off entirely.

The disputes have affected more than a dozen plants, including suppliers to Honda Motor Corp (7267.T) and its bigger rival Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T), raising questions about China's future as a low-cost manufacturing base.

But Beijing has been tolerant of such industrial action so far, as the higher salaries fit into its broader economic policy of diversifying China's economy into one driven by domestic consumption. ($1=6.770 Yuan) (Reporting by Royston Chan and Isabel Reynolds in TOKYO, writing by Emma Graham-Harrison; Editing by Ben Blanchard and Sanjeev Miglani)

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