Oligopolistic Suppliers, Symbiotic Value Chains and Workers' Bargaining Power: labour contestation in South China at an ascendant global footwear firm
Ashok KUMAR, 2019
Name of publisher/editorGlobal Networks
Summary & key words
"In this article, I analyse changes in the power relationship between lead firms, manufacturers and workers by examining a strike that took place in South China in 2014 among workers at the Taiwanese footwear giant, Yue Yuen. In the process, I demonstrate that there is a link between increased labour costs, capital consolidation and greater value capture at the bottom of the global supply chain. I argue that foot- wear value chains are seeing a falling level of monopsony power and the emergence of enormous oligopolistic suppliers, which are transforming the power imbalances of global supply chains towards a more mutually dependent ‘buyer–producer symbiosis’. The Yue Yuen strike shows a maturing industrial working class, facing pressures on social reproduction in China, adapting its bargaining strategies vis-à-vis the develop- mental state. Influxes of profit raise the ceiling for what can be demanded of employers, stimulating those same employers to pursue more aggressive means of holding onto their profits. The example of the Yue Yuen strike is an indicator of what are fundamental changes in the production process, dynamics within the value chain, and power and agency of workers in labour-intensive production. The strike demonstrates that consolidation is playing a decisive role in shaping the power relationship between domestic manufacturers and transnational brands, which, in turn, is directly affecting the bargaining power of workers."