Ten workers reportedly sacked in IBM China strike

Workers continue to press for higher compensation as protests go into their ninth day over the IBM-Lenovo server deal.

Photo by Liu Jiayi

Over 1,000 workers at the Shenzhen-based IBM ISTC, one of the strategic manufacturing bases of IBM's global integrated supply chain, continue their 8.30am - 9.30pm routine and come to the factory everyday. The only difference, during the past eight days, they have been grabbing loudspeakers and staging strikes.

"There is nothing to be afraid of. We shall see who will win in the end," said a 25-year-old striker. "The company keeps bluffing about us violating company rules, but the staff at the labor authority told us that a collective 'work stoppage' is in no way against any law in China."

Workers gather in an organized formation and march through the company compound every now and then, playing gongs and drums and chanting: "IBM is a sweatshop, IBM give me respect, IBM give my youth back!"

"The government officials are mediating with IBM now and all we need to do is continue the parade," added the worker. "We don't have to worry about being arrested, the police officers told us that they will let us be as long as we stay inside the company and don't smash things."

Photo by Liu Jiayi

Only one golfcart-sized police patrol car was parked outside IBM yesterday and the police officer inside it was taking a nap.

After the marching crowd went for a rest, IBM reiterated an announcement that all wages and benefits will be the same after the Lenovo takeover and urge the striking workers to go back to work.

"IBM gave us this yesterday but no one gives a damn, we are employed by IBM now and we need from them an outright compensation plan," said one worker, refering to a summarized Lenovo press release issued on March 10.

Another 30-year-old striker said: "We heard about IBM's 'Project Apollo' and its global job cuts plans and we know that by slashing 13,000 jobs, IBM will save US$1 billion."

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"We are sold, along with the whole deal, for US$2.3 billion, someone is definitely making a ton of money, we need our share too!" he said.

According to Duan Yi, a veteran labor rights lawyer at Laowei Law Firm in Shenzhen, usually three parties benefit financially from a deal: the selling company, the buying company, and the middleman. "In the west, it is commonplace for workers to ask for their share of the cake. It is now happening in China. What the workers demand is not guaranteed by law, but it is neither prohibited by law."

Workers are demanding IBM to pay their average monthly salary multiplied by double their number of years of service, plus one month’s salary, as well as extra compensation for the pregnant female workers and recent mothers.

"Now you can hear the company propaganda saying that ten workers have been sacked for not coming to work and staging strikes," said a higher level employer. "The company will definitely lose in court, we will continue the strike and we will get our share."