Fidest – Agenzia giornalistica/press agency

Quotidiano di informazione – Anno 34 n° 316

MERICS China Flash: Strikes cause continuous tensions in China

Posted by fidest press agency su giovedì, 28 aprile 2016

labour protests in ChinaWorkers’ movements and trade unions all over the world will celebrate International Labour Day on 1 May. In China, houses are decorated with flowers and slogans are put up on the occasion of “Laodong Jie”. But this year, there is not much reason to celebrate: the country’s difficult economic situation is having a knock-on effect on industrial labourers. Growing dissatisfaction over unpaid wages and poor working conditions were the cause of a growing number of strikes, even though the Party and state have tried hard to curb such unrest.We discussed these tensions with Simon Lang, research associate at MERICS:
So far this year, about a thousand strikes have been recorded in China, many of which took place spontaneously. What’s the reason for all this unrest?
It’s mainly workers from private construction firms and manufacturing companies who are on strike. The slower economic growth and falling exports have led to a large number of lay-offs, and in other cases wages have not been paid regularly. Many workers are desperate because they haven’t received wages for months and do not know how to support their families. In such a difficult situation, they are willing to accept reprisals from their employer or even the state.
How exactly do these work stoppages take place? How do strikers organise?
Discontented employees and redundant workers often start protesting spontaneously. Younger employees know more about their rights today than their parents did at their age. They have higher expectations and more self-confidence. It’s become much easier to co-ordinate protests now that smartphones are widely available. In most cases, a protest starts off with a small group of disgruntled workers. It’s hard to organise properly, though, as trying to co-ordinate with a large number of people is a risky undertaking in China. In fact, a lot of protests lead to nowhere as none of the initiators are prepared to take up negotiations with the management. There aren’t any bodies that represent workers’ rights apart from the All-China Federation of Trade Unions, and most of all, this organisation wants to maintain social harmony – just like the Chinese leadership.
How has the Chinese government responded to such protests?
Local governments have taken all kinds of steps to curb social unrest as they’re afraid of strikes spreading. They employ a kind of carrot-and-stick approach: local officials put both employers and employees under pressure to get them to look for a compromise together. At the same time, though, the state is not afraid of sending the police in against strikers to get them off the road and keep them from protesting.
In contrast to this tactic, company executives have tried to divide striking workers by making attractive financial offers to individual leaders, luring them back to work. State-owned enterprises, on the other hand, try to prevent strikes from occurring by offering workers financial compensation, early retirement and part-time employment in order to reduce the social impact of lay-offs. (photo: labour prostests in China)

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