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Article

20 Jul 2020

Author:
China Labour Bulletin (Hong Kong)

China: Worker protests on the rise as businesses struggle with new economic reality created by COVID-19 pandemic

“Worker protests on the rise in June as wage arrears proliferate”, 15 July 2020

Worker protests are on the rise again in China as businesses struggle to adapt to the new economic reality created by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Unemployment remains relatively high (officially 5.7 percent in urban areas) as factories and service providers are forced to close down, leaving workers without pay and out of a job…

Many long-standing wage arrears disputes remain unresolved, and workers have little option but to take collective action to claim their salaries.

China Labour Bulletin’s Strike Map recorded 89 incidents in June. This is the highest monthly total so far this year, but is still lower than last year…

There were 21 protests by factory workers… mainly related to business failures and wage arrears…

There were also protests by factory workers in the electronics, machinery, and food processing industries. The protest over wage arrears by more than 100 workers at the FujiFilm plant in Suzhou on 13 June was broken up by riot police. And police also intervened in a 17 June protest by dozens of workers at a food production plant in Guangzhou who were reportedly owed several hundred thousand yuan in back pay.

… protests by workers in the service sector are still commonplace. There were 15 incidents in June, predominantly small protests by employees in the hotel and catering, retail, and leisure industries.

The construction industry accounted for the highest proportion of protests (33 in total) with some wage arrears disputes dating back more than a year…

As CLB pointed out in its recent research report on the construction industry, the trade union needs to be much more inclusive. It also must make sure all construction workers are members by restructuring into a sectoral union, rather than relying on the antiquated and ineffective system of enterprise unions that only cater to the small minority of formal employees.

[Also referred to Second Construction Bureau of China and Yuancheng Construction]

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