Strikes and protests continue into the New Year

The recent upsurge in worker activism in China is continuing into the New Year with five more strikes and protests in five different provinces getting media attention last week.

About 10,000 workers at a Chengdu steel plant staged a massive protest over low pay on 4 January. And a least 5,000 of those workers took to the streets, demanding a salary increase of 400 yuan and a year-end bonus of 3,000 yuan.

More than 1,000 police were deployed to keep order. The workers eventually returned to the factory but continued to block the main entrances for three days. Management and worker representatives held talks on 6 January, while at the same time riot police reportedly used tear gas to dispel the striking workers.

In the north-eastern city of Dalian, up to one thousand brewery workers went on strike on 5 January, in protest at low wages and their treatment since being taken over by Belgian beer conglomerate AB InBev. All five workshops were closed and entrances blocked preventing goods from entering or leaving. Talks are underway to resolve the dispute, which after three days was reportedly still on-going.

At a Hong Kong-owned toy factory in the south-western province of Guangxi, the entire 1,300 strong predominately female workforce went on strike on 7 January in a dispute over unpaid wages. The walkout lasted six hours.

On 3 January, workers at a factory in Dongguan stopped work in protest after a dead mouse was discovered in a vat of vegetable soup during the company’s New Year banquet, the local Yangcheng Evening News reported. In response management promised they would eat with the workers in future in order to monitor food quality.

And in the central province of Hebei, more than 40 long-distances bus drivers staged a strike on 1 January in protest at what they saw as unfair competition from buses in Pingquan city extending their routes into suburban areas.

As CLB Director Han Dongfang pointed out in a television interview last month, these worker protests are springing up; “not because Chinese workers are becoming greedy, it's because the workers in China is getting more aware of their rights.”

Han also noted that in many cases, as in some of the above incidents, the government was letting workers and management resolve the dispute themselves. “They learned their lesson, and they are willing to step out of labour disputes, and let labour and the employers deal with each other. The government role is to provide legislation to make sure it's a fair deal,” he said.

For the latest updates on worker protests, see CLB's strike map 2011-12 on our Chinese language website.
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