It’s an ill-wind that, in the absence of the international solidarity of workers, blows no one any good. After recent news that Chinese workers are increasingly likely to take industrial action owing to their very low wages and poor working conditions, it appears that Japanese investors will respond by withdrawing from the country and relocating to countries where the labour force is even more forcibly repressed – step forward, the Land of Smiles!
According to this Thai Labour Campaign story: “The annual salary for a Chinese Honda worker currently can run as high as US$4,500 to 5,500: about twice that of Indian workers, and 33 percent higher than Thai workers.”
As a reward for ensuring these low salaries through the relentless suppression of freedom of association, collective bargaining and, under the current Abhisit regime, freedom of speech, Thailand is to be rewarded by the opening of a third Mitsubishi factory where the environmentally-sensitive ‘global small car’ is due to be built and exported around the world.
In response to lies spread by the government-influenced media that political dissidence stifles economic growth, a spokesperson noted that: “Though some people are worried about political risks, such as demonstrations by the “Red Shirt Army,” Nissan President Ghosn made it clear that no dent had been made in the company’s production target due to the political unrest: moreover, its sales had actually increased.”
The Phnom Penh Post last week had a story entitled Cheap Labour Pays Dividends. After noting that some unions are considering strike action after the minimum wage in the garment sector was being raised by US$5 to US$61 per month, scarcely more than the US$2 per day definition of poverty followed by the World Bank, “Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training Secretary of State Oum Mean said it was important for Cambodia to take advantage of the new interest sparked by relatively low labour costs; otherwise, investors could “run away from us”, causing workers to suffer.
“We have many laws and regulations comparable to other countries to reassure and give confidence to these investors, especially given we have enough manpower [to support them] with low labour cost,” he said.”
Don’t the investor classes have enough ministries to support their interests without controlling the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training as well? Apparently not.