By James Griffiths, CNN, March 29, 2016
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Country in revolt
From 2011 to 2013, China Labor Bulletin (CLB), a Hong Kong-based workers’ rights group, recorded around 1,200 strikes and protests across the country. In 2014 alone, there were more than 1,300 incidents. The following year, that number rose to over 2,700 — more than one a day in Guangdong province — a pattern that has continued into 2016. A glance at the map of incidents shows no province of China unaffected by strikes or worker protests, a far sight from the image of technocratic control and permanent growth that the ruling Communist Party likes to present to the world. “The fundamental cause has been the systematic failure of employers to respect the basic rights of employees, such as being paid on time and receiving their legally mandated benefits, and the failure of local government officials to enforce labor law,” according to CLB. With protests already at record rates according to CLB, Beijing is preparing for a mass-downsizing of China’s bloated state-owned industries, beginning with the laying off of more than 1.8 million steel and coal workers. The government has promised to allocate up to 100 billion yuan ($15.4 billion) in two years to help laid-off workers find new employment, according to state media. While some strikes — generally those involving foreign companies, such as a September 2014 walkout involving more than 10,000 workers at an Apple supplier in Dongguan — are widely reported, most go largely unreported outside their immediate areas, with information only seeping out later via human rights monitors and activist groups.
Worst to come?
While the economic slowdown saw 2015 become a banner year for worker protests, it may seem just a blip compared to what is to come, as Beijing prepares to cut millions of jobs across multiple state-owned industries. With millions of more jobs on the line, according to Reuters, the restructuring would be the most significant reform of the state sector since the late 1990s and early 2000s, at which time 28 million workers were laid off and the government paid out more than 73 billion yuan ($11.2 billion) in severance packages.
Financial Times, Hudson Lockett, July 14, 2016
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Strikes and protests in China during the first half of 2016 rose almost 20 per cent compared to a year earlier as an early boom in construction-sector unrest gave way to sustained growth in collective action by workers in transportation….
The geographic spread of worker action also continued as the manufacturing nexus of Guangdong, a long-time hotbed for strikes and protests, was joined by the coastal provinces of Shandong and Jiangsu as well as the inland province of Henan in witnessing more than 100 incidents over the last six months.
Further inland, the relatively more-developed province of Sichuan wasn’t far behind. Together with 26 other administrative regions they brought the national average per region to 46.6 in H1 2016, a marked increase from the average of 39.5 a year prior.