11/04/2014, 00.00
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China, strikes and industrial action double in one year

According to the China Labour Bulletin, the only free trade union in the Chinese world based in Hong Kong, demonstrations in favor of better working conditions increased by 100% compared to 2013. Merit of visibility offered by social networks and greater dissatisfaction with the way of life imposed on workers.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - The number of strikes in China in the first three quarters of 2014 have increased by 101% compared to the same period in the previous year. This includes the increased visibility of protesting workers - who are increasingly using social networks - but also a general dissatisfaction with working conditions in the country. This was reported by the China Labour Bulletin (CLB), the first free trade union in China, founded during the riots in Tiananmen Square and now based in Hong Kong.

According to the group, which has also published a detailed strike map there were 372 clashes over wages or working hours in the third quarter of 2014; in the same period of 2013, data showed 185 episodes. In September, only 165 factory workers were on strike, and the data for March (still being elaborated) shows no sign of a decrease.

The industries of the wealthy southern province of Guangdong - the traditional center for labour activism in the country thanks to its proximity to Hong Kong - seem to have lost their primacy: both in terms of geographical and industrial sectors, the strikes were stratified across the nation. The CLB is the only union in mainland China, as the Union of Workers - the official body representing the workers and rural farmers - has always been in the hands of the Communist Party.

The manufacturing sector is still firmly in first place on the podium of the protests, with 45.2% of the strikes. However, the largest growth sector is in construction. In the third quarter of 2013 only 4 of 185 (or 2%) strikes were related to the construction industry; in the same period a year later, they number had risen from 55 to 372, or 14%. This increase relates to the housing bubble, driven by government bonds and now in free fall.

The issue of social security payments is gaining importance.  Once relatively unknown in China's labour market it hit the headlines with the massive Yue Yuen strike, in 2014 when over 40 thousand workers stopped industrial production demanding health insurance and pension contributions. Since then, the CLB explains, "Chinese workers have become much more aware of the issue, and in the third quarter of this year there have been 16 strikes directly connected with the payment of social security".


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