by Zaozao (Factory Stories, Factory Management, November 2014)
First conflict: After coming back from assisting on another line, there weren’t enough people to run our own line. There were only three of us at our work station, but it requires at least four people to operate. Not long after starting up the line under these conditions, line leader Z rushed in shouting at our instructor: “W, do you know the output you’re at? Do you know how little you’re producing?” W got really nervous and didn’t know what to say, so I jumped in: “You want output, but you didn’t bother to check how many people are on the line? There’s not even enough people here, you’ve got the same person first working on this station and then on that station, and you’re still demanding more output?!” After hearing this Z toned it down a bit, but continued to talk to the instructor in a rough way: “There isn’t enough people? If that’s the case you should have said that earlier!” Shortly after that someone came to help.
Second conflict: When our instructor W was taking a break, an instructor called L came from another line to sub for a while. It was shortly after starting work again and the materials hadn’t arrived yet, so the three of us sat down and began chatting. L came running in with a stern expression. She spoke in a serious way, and although she was not threatening us it felt like it: “You guys should watch out a bit, someone from management might come by. If they see you have nothing to do, they’ll reduce the number of people on the line, and in the end you’ll be the ones who suffer.” I was really bewildered since it was not our fault that we had nothing to do, so I told her rather harshly, “Sure, reduce the number of people on the line, there are only three of us already. We need one to operate the machine, one to pass the materials and two more to pack, and there are only three of us as it is! Of course you can further reduce the number of people, just don’t blame us when you can’t finish the products.” She seemed both angry and anxious: “I’m not talking just about you specifically; they’ve been cutting the number of employees lately; you should also be careful, don’t let them think there are too many of you.” I became even angrier – there weren’t enough people as it was, so how could they reduce us even more, so finally I said, “Things are the way they are, I can’t do anything about that, if they want to cut manpower we won’t be able to work. It’s always up to them to decide if they cut or not!” X, who was standing next to me, kept pulling my sleeve to quiet me down, but I didn’t stop. Why should I? What did I say that was wrong? I wasn’t arguing, I was just making things clear! L didn’t say anything else – she just left.
Third conflict: Lately we hadn’t been assigned any work after our shift, and at first it seemed that today would be no different, but just as we were getting ready to wrap it up for the day, instructor W suddenly told us that we should do another hour of overtime. People from our station said they wouldn’t do overtime since one hour was just not worth it. Although W urged us to do overtime, we continued to refuse. X had already taken out the trash, and after taking out the trash one usually doesn’t return to the work area; they are basically off work.
Not long after X left, line leader Z showed up yelling aggressively, “Who’s not doing overtime?” I was standing right next to her when I told her straight up, “Nobody is doing overtime!” She glanced at me furiously as if to say, “I’m not asking you!” I thought to myself, “Shit, if you don’t want an answer then you shouldn’t ask questions and we can all go home.” She then turned to D, who was standing next to me, and asked, “Will you do overtime?” D already had plans and said no. When she turned her head toward me I pretended I didn’t see her, so she went to the machine stand and asked H, the machine operator, if he would accept overtime, but he refused as well. Then she suddenly yelled at me, “Young lady, just because you don’t have a family to raise and don’t have to earn money, that doesn’t mean other people don’t, so you shouldn’t incite them!” When I heard that I flared up: “Did you ask them if I incited them? You think I’m able to do that? They aren’t little children, they’re adults! They decide whether they want to do overtime; it has nothing to do with me!” But she didn’t want to appear weak and be put down easily, so she said, “If you don’t want to do overtime you can only represent yourself, if you are inciting others then according to factory regulations…” I interrupted her: “I AM representing myself! Is that a problem?” But she wouldn’t listen and continued: “If you don’t want to do overtime, give your name and work number to the instructor and it’s done.” I said, “Sure, I was doing just that, then you came barging in asking questions. We’ve already cleared things out and let you know, so what’s the problem now?” That shut her up and she left. I was still a bit pissed off, so I shouted after her, “I’m inciting people? Where do I have the ability to incite people? You’re the line leader and even YOU don’t have that ability, so how come I’m capable of doing that? If I were capable of inciting anyone it wouldn’t be just about the overtime issue. Really, how can someone who speaks without thinking get to work as a line leader anyway?”
One talk: After these confrontations, line leader Z was particularly respectful to me – at least she no longer shouted at me, but would talk nicely instead. One day, she called me to the computer desk to talk. When I asked what’s the problem, she answered no problem, just a little chat. She asked how old I was, where I was from, whether I was married. I answered her questions one by one, but felt a bit confused, and forgot to ask why she had called for me. Finally she asked if I wanted to stay in the factory for a long time. I said no, I might go back home before long. And after that? Well then I would return and find another job.