03/04/2016, 13.21
CHINA

Hike in strikes: Industries no longer pay wages

The China Labour Bulletin publishes data relating to the period before the Chinese New Year. A record (negative) amounting to 1,050 protests in just over two months. In 2015 there were 2,774 strikes. The entrepreneurs in the construction industry are the worst, followed by those in the manufacturing and mining. Guangdong freezes wages for the next two years.

 

Beijing (AsiaNews) - The issue of payment of wages in China now seems to be endemic. Prior to the Lunar New Year, when traditionally people pay their debts and arrears, there were in fact 1,050 strikes and workers' protests for non-payment of salaries. It is a record, documented by the China Labour Bulletin, which particularly covers the construction market.

According to the data of the independent trade union, which is based in Hong Kong but also operates in mainland China, between December 1, 2015 and February 8, 2016 there were hundreds of strikes in Guangdong, Henan, Shandong and Hebei. Protests by construction workers were most frequent in Zhengzhou (23 incidents) and Chengdu (21 incidents). In Beijing, Guangzhou and Chongqing there were 14 (per city).

Protests by construction workers account for 55% of the total; in second place are the workers in the manufacturing industry, with 23% of strikes and clashes, while in third place were miners with 5.6%, an increase of four percentage points compared to 2015. Since the Chinese government has already announced that in the coming years it intends to cut 1.8 million jobs in the coal and steel industries, it is "very likely" that the number of protests in these areas will mount.

In total, 2015 seems to have been a black year for trade union issues. During the year, the CLB registered 2,774 accidents: double the 1,379 in 2014. This is an increase due in part to the improvement of the detection system, which according to the union itself now counts on many more sources, but above It is based on the systematic violation of workers' rights. Although it is true that the global economic crisis has slowed the economy, say some analysts, this is not enough to explain the spike.

According to Caixin, an independent news organization well known throughout China, the southern province of Guangdong has announced plans to block the salaries for 2016 and 2017, in order to reduce their labor costs. The local executive believes it is an "incentive" to help the structural reform of the economy indicated by the Communist Party. This preaches the abandonment of heavy industrial production for a conversion to the third sector and online business.

Some signals, writes Caixin, suggest that China's manufacturing is slowing down further still. The surveys conducted by the newspaper show a decline of two points in February 2016 in an index that separates expansion from its shrinking economy. However, experts say, the wage freeze will not help the traditional Chinese labor market: entrepreneurs simply decide to relocate industrial production elsewhere in Southeast Asia, where labor costs are even less than China.

Since the reform and opening desired by Deng Xiaoping, economic growth has helped support the legitimacy of the Communist Party. The industrial transformation and restructuring of the economy will affect the labor market, where millions of university graduates represent a new challenge.

 Internet spreads information and speeds up the awareness of the population. Since Xi Jinping took power, the authorities have tightened control over society: more and more lawyers have been arrested and, while people seek peace in religions, the government is trying to curb them.

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