Reports

April, 01 2005 |  Share

Goodyear and Bridgestone in China

 

Goodyear & Bridgestone Tire Production in China

Workers Paid Just 56 Cents an Hour

The Goodyear Dalian Tire Company Limited and the Bridgestone Tire plant in Shenyang are, according to interviews with the workers, joint ventures with the government of China holding a minority 25 percent share.  There are 700 workers in the Goodyear plant and 800 in the Bridgestone facility.  Conditions in the two plants are very similar.

Summary:

Approximately 30 percent of the workers are hired on a temporary basis, earning just $0.42 an hour with no benefits and no rights.  These workers can be fired for being absent for a single day.

Temp Wage 

 

 $0.42 an hour (.41755)

 $3.36 a day

 $16.70 a week

 $72.38 a month

The regular staff receive $0.56 an hour--$4.45 a day and $22.27 a week--and benefits, including health insurance, a $12.05 a month retirement pension, free lunch and a housing subsidy equal to their wage.

Regular Staff Wage 

 

 $0.56 an hour (.55674)

 $4.45 a day

 $22.27 a week

 $96.50 a month

Both factories operate around the clock on a 24-hour basis, using three shifts.  There is no overtime, and everyone works the legal five-day, 40-hour week.

Once inside the factory, no one is permitted to leave during their shift.

Bridgestone Tire Plant in China

In some areas of the factory, workers are supposed to wear masks, but the workers we spoke with had no real understanding of what the health hazards might be.  Apparently the area where the tire formation is done is particularly polluted.

The workers do not live in company dorms, as is common in the south of China, but rather, rent apartments in nearby communities.  A typical workers apartment for three people is comprised of two small rooms, 10-by-10 feet each, or 200 square feet total.  Typical furnishings include one bed, one table, one 21-inch TV and an old sofa.  A small two-room apartment rents for $21.71 a month.  A three-room, 328 square-foot apartment would rent for $48.25 a month.

 A Worker s Most Basic Monthly Expenses 

 
   

 Rent for a small 2 or 3-room apartment:

$21.71 to $48.25  

 

Food for three people: 

(The largest part of the diet would be rice.  Meat costs $0.71 a pound.)

 

 $42.22

 School tuition for a child:

 $8.44
 TOTAL:  $72.37 - $98.91

And, of course this does not include any expenses for clothing, travel, emergencies, miscellaneous needs or savings, let alone holidays or minor entertainment.  So, the $0.56 an hour, $96.50 a month wage is below the cost of living even under the lower standard of living in China.

Workers can supplement their earnings by working the night shift, where there is a $0.60 an hour premium over the base wage.  Typically, the shifts are from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.;  3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., and 11:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.

Since the wages are below-subsistence levels and they do not live in company dorms, the regular workers are eligible to receive a $100 a month housing subsidy, which is equal to their wage.  With all benefits included, a regular, full-time worker can earn $1.14 an hour.

As in the rest of China, no independent union is permitted.  

Goodyear Dalian Tire Company

Bridgestone and Goodyear Tire workers surrounded by massive unemployment:

According to official state figures, in 2000, 650,000 factory workers were laid off in Shenyang, and another estimated 500,000 workers were laid off in 2002 just in the Tiexi District of Shenyang--as half of the state-owned factories were either shut down or began operating on very reduced, part-time schedules.  So the  Bridgestone and Goodyear workers are surrounded by massive unemployment.  (There are some 200 million unemployed people in China s rural areas and, on any given day, another 130 million people on the road seeking employment as migrant workers--a combined total of 330 million, which is larger than the population of the United States.)

In Shenyang the local government is supposed to pay unemployment benefits, but this totals just $14.48 to $18.09 a month, or as little as $3.34 a week, which, obviously no one can possibly live on.

Bridgestone Tire Plant in China

Difficulties in approaching the workers:

At both plants, the workers are bussed directly into the factory compound in company vehicles, and bussed out in the same way after their shift is over.  Under these conditions, it was impossible to meet with workers outside the factories.

Further, the Bridgestone Tire factory is located in a newly developed area in Shenyang, which is quite isolated, with few people on the streets.  Any strangers stand out and are easily spotted, so it is extremely difficult to even approach the factory.

Both the Goodyear and Bridgestone factories are located in the north of China, in Liaoning Province which borders the Yellow Sea and North Korea.  It is a 1,500-mile flight from Guangdong Province in the south, where the majority of export factories are located.  Liaoning is a big place, and the two factories are 200 miles apart.  There appears to be little local activism in the areas where the factories are located. 

The "Model" Goodyear and Bridgestone factories will suck wages and standards down around the world:

The Goodyear and Bridgestone plants do not look like sweatshops and they do not mirror the dismal working conditions--shifts up to 20 hours a day, seven days a week, with 15 days off a year;  16 1/2 to 31 cent-an-hour wages; workers being shortchanged on their overtime pay;  crowded, primitive dorms and unsafe food--that we have documented in Gungdong Province.

This is the real danger in the global economy.  On the surface, the factories are modern facilities, and they adhere to the law--a 40-hour, five-day work week with no overtime.  But the workers still earn just 56 cents an hour, there is no independent union, and the workers have no voice.  Such factories could be compared with well-managed prisons.  It is this cleaned up version of the global economy, but lacking in any real respect for worker rights, that is the biggest threat to suck wages and worker rights standards down all over the world.

At the huge GM plant in Shanghai, the workers earn $1.00 an hour and the parking lot is filled with thousands of bicycles--since the workers could not even dream of owning a car.