The Southern Metropolis Daily reported that a third round of collective wage consultations between the trade union and management concluded on 1 March with an agreement to increase basic wages by 561 yuan in 2011, with the monthly bonus increasing by 50 yuan. This brings the wages of production line workers at the plant to just over 2,600 yuan a month.
Workers’ representatives from the regional and factory trade unions had asked for a monthly increase of 880 yuan, while management initially offered 531 yuan a month, an increase of 27.7 percent.
The negotiations stalled several times and the deadlock was reportedly only broken after the intervention of Kong Xianghong, the vice-chair of the Guangdong provincial trade union federation, who has been personally involved in the development of the trade union at the plant since the strike first broke out in May last year.
Trade union representatives also stated that an agreement had been reached in principle to raise production line workers’ wages to 3,500 yuan a month by 2013, when a new joint-venture between Volkswagen and China’s First Auto Works will open in Foshan, offering wages of between 3,500 yuan and 4,000 yuan a month.
The agreement represents a significant breakthrough for the Guangdong provincial trade union and the Nanhai Honda enterprise union both of which were criticized last year for their failure to effectively represent workers’ interests during the strike. That said, the negotiations still fell short of the ideal for collective bargaining.
The trade union negotiators clearly lobbied hard for the workers’ demands this time but the workers themselves were still left on the sidelines. The union allowed some 40 workers to observe (旁听) but not actually participate in the negotiations.
CLB director, Han Dongfang noted that; “Hopefully this will be the first step towards proper collective bargaining, and that, during the next round of bargaining, democratically-elected workers representatives will be allowed to conduct rather than just observe the negotiations.”