Hide Message

Updating the Resource Centre Digital Platform

The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre is at a critical point in its development. Our digital platform is home to a wealth of information on business and human rights, but hasn’t had a visual refresh for a number of years.

We will soon be updating the site to improve its usability and better serve the thousands of people that use our site to support their work.

Please take an advance peek at our new look, and let us know what you think!

Thank you,
Alex Guy, Digital Officer

Find Out More Hide Message

China: Shifting patterns of transport worker protests present challenge to trade union

Author: China Labour Bulletin (Hong Kong), Published on: 25 November 2019

“The shifting patterns of transport worker protests in China present a major challenge to the trade union”, 18 November 2019

Strikes and collective protests by transport workers have long been a feature of daily life in China’s cities but in the last five years there has been a noticeable shift in the nature of these protests, driven primarily by the rapid growth of app-based transport services and the decline of traditional services such as taxis…

A proper understanding of these trends and the underlying issues giving rise to transport strikes is vital not only for China’s government but also for the official trade union, the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU), which claims it has now made recruitment and better protection of transport workers a major priority... 

… as ride-app drivers became more regulated and started to dominate the market, protests by taxi drivers began to decline…

The focus of many taxi driver protests nowadays is on claiming their operating rights and car ownership from the cab companies…

... the number of protests by bus drivers and crews has also been decreasing… Since 2017... bus worker protests have focused more on defensive actions related to wage arrears and compensation following company closures and the cancellation of bus routes by local government regulators…

… there was a commensurate rise in the number of protests by food delivery and express delivery workers… One of the most common causes of strikes is a sudden and arbitrary pay cut imposed by the two main food delivery companies, Meituan and Ele.me, who are in a fierce battle for market dominance. With their income reduced, drivers are forced to work even longer hours and more intensely in order to cover their losses. As a result, traffic accidents are commonplace…

The express delivery sector is likewise highly competitive, with many companies failing or being forced to restructure after over-aggressive expansion plans failed to secure the market share expected. This often leaves drivers out of a job or facing severe losses…

…  Market saturation has led to drivers’ orders falling to the point where they can no longer make a living. Malpractice is rife in the industry with drivers feeling cheated not only the ride-app companies but by car lease companies that promise drivers an operating permit in return for substantial administrative fees but then fail to deliver on that promise…

In terms of protest scale, there has also been a clear drop-off in the number of participants in individual transport strikes over the last five years… the industry is much more fragmented and informal. As such, protests tend to be more localised and short-lived, generally involving less than 100 people…

Through the last five years of transport worker protests in China, the trade union has been conspicuous by its absence. Transport workers have in fact been asking for union representation since the mid-2000s but local union officials have been either incapable or unwilling to recruit them... 

There were some attempts in the 2010s to reform the taxi industry and create an enterprise system where drivers were formal employees and therefore could form a union. But in most cases local union officials still only negotiated with company managers rather than the drivers themselves when trying to set up a union…

The trade union missed a golden opportunity to unionise taxi drivers in the 2000s and 2010s. It is imperative now that it does not make the same mistake in the 2020s and fail to organise China’s rapidly growing and essential labour force of food delivery workers, express delivery workers and ride-app drivers…

[Also referred to OTP express]

Read the full post here

Related companies: Ele.me Meituan