News of the class struggle will be easier to follow in English from now on, thanks to a monthly bulletin produced by the China Labour Bulletin.
The online bulletin, produced in Hong Kong, is an excellent source of information on workers' struggles inside China, where over 200 million industrial workers produce a huge volume of clothes, trainers, toys and other products sold all over the world. Some recent examples of class struggle are summarised below.
In November, around 10,000 workers from the Xiangyang Automobile Bearing Company in Xiangfan City blocked roads and railway lines across the city in a large-scale protest action. The workers aimed to pressurise the government to guarantee their lawful rights during the privatisation of the former state-owned company.
The two-day protest action paralysed traffic throughout the city and led to a violent confrontation between the workers and the police. In addition, the main railway line out of Xiangfan remained blocked for two days. Although workers stopped their demonstrations, all production at the factory remained suspended.
In November hundreds of schoolteachers from community schools in the city of Suizhou, Hubei Province, demonstrated to demand that the government upgrade them to the status of public school teachers, as it has promised since 1996. At the height of the protest, more than 2,000 teachers camped outside the municipal office. They were attacked and forcibly removed by several vanloads of officials and police.
Public school teachers in China are generally better paid than community schoolteachers and have guaranteed pension rights. Many of the Suizhou protestors are former public school teachers who were laid off, then re-hired by the local authorities as community teachers on much lower salaries.
Elsewhere in Lanzhou, Gansu Province in November, all thirteen teachers from the Wujiayuan community-run school came out on strike. Their demands included the payment of several months of unpaid wages and the same benefits that public school teachers have, such as medical insurance and pensions.
Following the strike, 152 teachers from another local community school, owned by the bankrupt A'gan Town Coalmine, held a five-day strike starting on 13 November. The teachers were demanding the payment of some four months' wage arrears and opposing the recent cancellation of a wage increase that the teachers had been awarded in 1999.
On 31 October, workers at the Zhengzhou Construction Machinery Group blocked the factory entrance in protest against the violation of workers' rights during the company's restructuring. The protests continued without resolution, and on 6 November more than 300 workers joined the sit-in outside the factory gates, halting production completely. At one point the workers also blocked roads leading to the factory.
According to the chair of the local official union, workers' protests have not been confined to the Zhengzhou Construction Machinery Group. The city government had recently relinquished control over a first batch of 33 local state-owned factories, and workers from many of the affected factories had also been staging protest demonstrations and blocking roads elsewhere in the city. He also admitted that, "it is impossible for the trade union in China [ACFTU] to act independently while the Communist Party is still around."
- For more information: www.china-labour.org.hk