Quality Control: Dealing with Worker Strikes

by Julian Righetti on August 25,2012 in China Trade ,

Factory inspections are excellent ways to ensure products conform to the specifications stipulated in contracts. For as little as $350USD per day, as an importer, you can ensure that your products match what you ordered. However, inspections are not easy and should not be left to just anyone to manage.

During one of my regular factory quality control visits this year I encountered a phenomenon not too uncommon in Chinese factories – an industrial strike.

I was in Foshan in southern China to do the quality control inspection for a shipment of lights to be sent to South America. After thoroughly checking the lights for any faults, I approved the products as having passed the AQL test, so we were ready to load the boxes into the shipping container. Factories usually outsource the loading service to some teamsters who get paid per container loaded. So obviously they have a motivation to load the containers as quickly as possible, which often means not taking any concern for the fragile contents being loaded.

So as we were

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loading the containers, I noticed that actually many boxes were damaged or not sealed adequately for such a long journey; what’s more, many of the workers were literally throwing boxes onto the shipping container. I had to intervene-first, to put damaged boxes aside to replace or seal properly and also to tell the workers to slow down

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and take some proper care when packaging.

The ten teamsters packing the container took exception to this person (me) ‘wasting their time’, and called a strike. For 2 hours they refused to continue packing the container while I was supervising. However, I was not going anywhere, so they soon realized that they were losing more money by striking than by going slower and packing the container they way it should be done.

I’ve realized that the main reason they did strike is because they don’t usually have someone on the ground making sure that they do their job properly.

Julian Righetti is a managing partner of Hammersourcing.com, a China international trade services firm. Julian can be reached at julian.righetti@hammersourcing.com. International trade and chaos go hand-in-hand. Ensure that your products and property are protected.

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