SAN FRANCISCO--In the challenging, fast-paced world of engineering,
there's always some grumbling... grumbling about marketing
numbskulls, management buffoons, unreasonable design schedules,
crazy customer demands and a lack of respect.
In China, it's gone to another level.
Workers at Shanghai Shinmei Electric Company, which makes
electromagnetic coils and other electronic products, revolted in
recent days, taking hostage 10 Japanese nationals and eight Chinese
managers for nearly two days. And this wasn't some concentrated
cabal of wild-eyed crazies. This was 1,000 workers in revolt. A
Their complaint? "Ridiculously strict" potty breaks. A wire-service
report quoted a security guard named Feng as saying:
"The workers demanded the scrapping of the
ridiculously strict requirements stipulating that workers only
have two minutes to go to the toilet and workers will be fined
50 yuan ($8) if they are late once and fired if they are late
twice. The managers were later freed when police intervened and
when they agreed to reconsider the rules."
The hostage situation started Friday morning and lasted until
midnight Saturday. It's not known whether the workers prevented the
18 hostages from visiting the bathroom during that stretch, but that
would seem a likely response, wouldn't it?
We know that protests of many kinds are increasingly common in China
and that workplace conditions in electronics factories are under
). I read this
weekend's story with a mixture of amusement and concern.
In North America and Europe, engineers are paid well, but have their
gripes, as you
told us a year-and-a-half ago
. You've said
you're less happy than workers in other professions
that can be understandable in your intense line work. After all,
work life can be more difficult during economic recessions as
companies try to squeeze more productivity out of few people.
So questions for you:
- How's it going? How are workplace conditions these days?
- Are you experiencing ridiculous work rules?
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