10/09/2015, 00.00
CHINA
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China’s sluggish economy boosting strike actions and protests over wages

In a report on the third quarter of 2015, the China Labour Bulletin shows, with figures and tables, the rising tide of labour protest, with almost 600 incidents. Contraction in manufacturing and unscrupulous employers are behind the trend. In some instances, this is taking an extreme turn. In the city of Jiaxing alone, three groups of workers commit suicide over a ten-day period.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - Strikes and worker protests have increased noticeably in China during the third quarter of this year, especially in the manufacturing and construction sectors, this according to the China Labour Bulletin (CLB).

In its latest report, the Hong Kong-based non-governmental organisation dedicated to workers’ rights in mainland China drew up a ‘strike map’ that shows the extent of the trend during the third quarter of 2015. In particular, it recorded 593 incidents during this period, 219 in manufacturing.

This is no accident. China’s manufacturing activity contracted for the second consecutive month in September, which was clearly reflected in greater unrest on the factory floor. On average, there were nearly three strikes and protests a day, predominately over unilaterally reduced or unpaid wages.

The construction industry is the second most affected sector. It is also one of the most sensitive of China’s economy, since it is one of the main factors behind the extraordinary growth of the country’s GDP over the past two decades.

As unsold real estate and unpaid bank loans grow, so does the risk that the real estate bubble will burst. Meanwhile, labour action is also up, the CLB noted, especially in construction, which represented 31 per cent of all walkouts in the third quarter.

Yet, this is still far from the number of incidents normally recorded in the months leading up to the Lunar New Year when construction workers traditionally demand payment of wages in arrears.

Thus, things can get even worse. Migrant workers employed in the construction industry, the driving sector of the economy, number in the hundreds of millions. Increasingly, as they are denied their wages, they can take extreme measures.

In the third quarter, the signs of desperation are clear. In some instances, groups of workers have climbed to rooftops and threatened to jump, with six such incidents in the manufacturing city of Dongguan alone this quarter. In the Zhejiang city of Jiaxing, there were three such incidents in the span of just ten days, causing some to dub it “the jumper city.”

In order to counter the trend, the authorities have beefed up police presence. As consequence, police interventions and arrests in labour disputes have increased, with arrests being reported in ten percent of all incidents in September.

In one case in Henan on 23 September, there were reports of shots being fired when police used force to break up a group of miners blocking the road in a protest over wage arrears.

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