All entries for Sunday 27 March 2005

March 27, 2005

Sweatshops & Misguided Western Protesters

Here, I commented on the tendency of politicians to tackle problems without thinking about a) the unintended consequences of actions and b) the probability of actions yielding the desired outcome. These ideas apply equally to the well meaning, but ultimately misguided support the Fair Trade cause and campaigns to rid the developing world of multinational corporations.

Hispanic Pundit relayed an article from Asian Labour News about workers in at a factory in Taiwan who have been striking due to their inability to work more hours than is currently permitted.

Taiwanese factories in Dongguan [a city between Hong Kong and Guangzhou and a major centre of manufacturing] are facing a problem. According to a news report in the United Daily in Taiwan, over a thousand workers at a factory, which produces goods for big brand names such as Nike, demonstrated for two days and damaged equipment and factory cars. 500 armed police arrived and quashed the riot. Several leaders were arrested.

The main cause for the riot was the limitation on working hours at the factory. The shorter hours have been requested by US companies so as to avoid criticism from various groups on long working hours. However, the mainly migrant workforce want to work longer hours so they can earn more. Consensus had been reached by the US companies, the Taiwanese-invested factory and local government that the maximum working hours per week should be set at 60 hours [which is still a breach of Chinese Labour Law, but less than other manufacturing plants]. However, this reduction in hours was unsatisfactory for the workers and the resulting riot was serious.

This is not to say treatment of employees abroad should be ignored. Still, blind protests in the West by consumers seeking to ease their conscience do little for those they seek to protect.


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