Beijing (AsiaNews) - Chinese workers have staged hundreds of strikes, more than three times the number in the same period in 2013, ahead of the Chinese New Year, seeking payment for long-overdue wages in arrears in order to be able to visit their families over the holiday.
Hong Kong-based China Labour Bulletin said it had recorded 569 incidents during the fourth quarter with workers' demands for wage arrears, pay increases, and compensation accounting for more than 87 per cent of the incidents.
Some 20 per cent of the sometimes-violent disputes were clustered in the southern province of Guangdong. Outside it, labour disputes jumped in Jiangsu, Shandong, and Henan.
The construction industry was the most affected. Oftentimes, contractors get loans from banks or private investors and then close up shop before paying workers.
However, the construction industry is not the only one plagued by wage disputes. A total of 43 strikes and protests were by teachers, more than four times the number in the fourth quarter of 2013.
In one particular incident, around a thousand workers at the Japanese-invested Citizen Precision (Guangzhou) Co. watch factory forced management last Friday to come to the negotiating table after striking on Thursday over changes to their contracts.
The strike was sparked by Citizen's attempts to buy employees out of their contracts in the form of redundancy payments instead of arrear payments.
Called in by management, riot police charged the crowd and at least two protesters were hospitalised. Meanwhile, negotiations are ongoing.
Every year, Lunar New Year festivities are characterised by labour-related violent incidents.
Traditionally, the New Year celebrations including paying off debts and bringing gifts home. However, hundreds of millions of migrant workers - the "engine" of Chinese economic growth - clash with employers because the latter try their utmost to delay (or deny) paying wage arrears.
Local governments are also involved as shareholders in the companies affected by industrial action. Local officials call in security forces to suppress demonstrations and prevent workers from appealing to the central government or the courts.
Because of this, the suicide rate among migrants jumps every year around New Year.