China: Workers Demand Wages, Security

Publisher Name: 
Green Left Weekly

Some 2000 workers and their retired counterparts from
the Tieshu textile factory in Suizhou, Hubei province,
staged an angry protest on February 8 denouncing the
now-defunct plants management for cheating workers of
savings and benefits. They also accuse management of
corruption.

According to the Hong Kong-based China Labour
Bulletin, some 1200 workers blocked the local rail
line that morning, joined by hundreds of others hours
later. They were attacked by police, who inflicted
injuries on scores of protesters. More than 20
suspected leaders were arrested over the next few
days.

Daily since then, however, more than 1000 workers have
congregated outside the municipal government office in
solidarity with the detainees and to continue pressing
for their demands.

Workers had been encouraged to take out shares in the
plant in 1993 and 1997. When the plant was declared
bankrupt in December 2003, these papers became worth a
fraction of what they had cost. According to the CLB,
workers sprang into action after being notified on
February 7 that pledges made to workers by the plant's
bankruptcy committee would now not be honoured.

The CLB reported that it has since been revealed that
friends of management and some non-worker shareholders
were forewarned of the plant's demise.

Many workers who have retired since 1999 invested
their retirement savings into the plant, encouraged by
management. Their security has disappeared.

In recent years, Chinas state firms have invented new
categories of work -paid near-starvation subsidies
instead of a wage -as a way to pump up employment
figures. The Tieshu plant also used this system, which
affected 4400 workers there. All subsidies have now
been withdrawn.

The workers first took mass action to defend their
entitlements and against suspected corruption in
January and March 2003.

Hundreds of workers sued management, but lost. An
appeal was also lost. Their lawyer resigned, prompting
them to resume a new series of protests in September
last year.

In a comparable case in Maoming, Guangdong province,
1000 retired workers of the China Petroleum and
Chemical Corporation have been protesting since early
January, trying to reclaim an illegal deduction to
their pension. They have maintained a daily protest
and blockade of the corporation's office for the past
month.

The CLB also reported that during the last quarter of
2003, the workers of many of the 33 state firms that
are being privatised in Zhengzhou, Henan province,
have blocked local roads and staged other forms of
public actions to protest against erosion of their
critical entitlements.

AMP Section Name:Labor