China's workers rising.june3.2014

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China's workers rising.june3.2014

  1. 1. China’s Workers Rising BCFL/VDLC Delegation Orientation June 3, 2014
  2. 2. Most populous country in the world: 1.4 Billion
  3. 3. Since Liberation in 1949  Socialist period, 1949-1978  First part of reform period, 1978-1992  Post Southern Tour, 1992-2010  New militancy, 2010 to 2014
  4. 4. What is this event?
  5. 5. Urban danwei (work unit) system  Lifetime employment guarantee  Housing provided and subsidized  Food and fuel subsidized  Medical care system provided  Public school education free  No firings or negative discipline  Positive examples such as model workers
  6. 6. Workers had a lot of power in a socialist society Unions didn’t have to protect people from firing or unfair discipline  Management was paternalistic (eg. Beijing Jeep)  Wage system was very egalitarian  But, things have changed….
  7. 7. Unions in the past: 1949-1978, Role:  Organized the ping pong tournaments  Helped out sick people  Promoted production and model workers  Promoted good nutrition “The union gave us eggs.”
  8. 8. ACFTU  One party and one union  All-China Federation of Trade Unions  No independent unions
  9. 9. 1976: Terrible Year  January: Premier Zhou died  April: flowers in Tiananmen Square  July: earthquake in Tangshan: 250,000 died  September: Chairman Mao died  October: Gang of Four arrested
  10. 10. 1978 Deng Xiaoping came to power  New China started down the capitalist road
  11. 11. One of Deng’s first invited guests: Milton Friedman, Chicago School of Economics
  12. 12. 1980, Special Economic Zones established for industry to try out capitalist methods of production. This is Shenzhen in 1980.
  13. 13. Shenzhen today
  14. 14. Privatization of industry and lay-offs of millions of workers in State- Owned Enterprises started slowly
  15. 15. Inflation of the late 1980s lead to protest about corruption and accountability  1989  Tiananmen Square  Far more workers were killed than students  They defended the streets leading to the Square by barricading them
  16. 16. 1992: Deng’s Southern Tour
  17. 17. Workers fought back against structural changes and lay-offs  2000, official tally of collective actions: 8,247 involving 259,445 workers  2002, Northeast action  Liaoning, 30,000 workers protested  Liaoyang city, leaders arrested and jailed
  18. 18. China joined WTO in 2001 What event preceded it two months before?
  19. 19. Effects on people  UNCTAD estimates 25 million unemployed resulting from WTO entry in 2001  Education has plummeted in rural areas, especially among girls; less than ½ girls attend schools in some provinces  Public health coverage: – 1978: 90% of population covered through work unit or commune; – 1997: 4% covered
  20. 20. Learn from Daqing
  21. 21. Fighting back in Daqing  Daqing, 50,000 oil workers demonstrated, 2002  Formed Daqing Provisional Union of Retrenched Workers
  22. 22. Privatization of industry and lay-offs of workers in State- Owned Enterprises intensified and workers fought back with demonstrations, blockades
  23. 23. Chinese workers are rebelling and standing up for justice
  24. 24. Who is benefitting from the ‘economic miracle’ of the Chinese economy? And who is not?
  25. 25. Gap between rich and poor enormous
  26. 26. Support for strikes? Why now?  Wages have fallen from 17% of total economic output in 1980 to 11% in 2008, creating resentment among workers who feel they are owed a bigger share of China’s new wealth.  At the same time there are many more wealthy people. The gap between rich and poor is as much as the U.S.
  27. 27. Apple iPad
  28. 28. Apple computers
  29. 29. Who makes these great gadgets?
  30. 30. Foxconn workers in Guangdong, China
  31. 31. Motherboards etc.
  32. 32. Foxconn  Enormously profitable Taiwanese company  More than 1 million workers in China
  33. 33. Most Foxconn factories in SE cities
  34. 34. Most workers have migrated from the countryside
  35. 35. Most SE plants  Low wages  Poor benefits  Long hours  Forced overtime  Monotonous work  Strict discipline  Called ‘blood and sweat’ shops in China
  36. 36. Foxconn-owned plants are particularly bad  Run like military camps  (brow) beaten by security guards if they don’t line up properly
  37. 37. Foxconn workers In dormitories they may be on different shifts and don’t have the chance to make friends
  38. 38. Unhappiness led to utter despair
  39. 39. In 2010 14 Foxconn workers committed suicide  Young men and women in their early 20s
  40. 40. Southern Weekly undercover report  Story picked up by rest of media in China and reports were closely followed
  41. 41. Shocked the nation  People were glued to their television sets and newspapers  Foxconn was roundly condemned and many did not attribute the ‘blood and sweat’ shop conditions to Foxconn alone, but abhorred the conditions in so many factories
  42. 42. Foxconn’s response?  Put up anti-suicide nets on the dormitories
  43. 43. What to wear at an anti-suicide rally
  44. 44. Workers finally got a 30% - 70% wage increase  Not because of the effort of the union in the workplaces because it was a fake union run by relatives of managers; it was public pressure  Not only product knock-offs are fakes
  45. 45. But most workers don’t despair, they fight back  Honda auto parts plants workers organized in the summer of 2010  They had been working alongside Japanese workers paid many times (50X) what they received
  46. 46. So they organized and struck for change & improvements
  47. 47. The parts plants workers stuck together
  48. 48. Effect of Just-in-time production: shut down the Honda assembly plants
  49. 49. In some cases, the “union” roughed up the workers  As Chair of the Guangzhou Trade Union said to us, “These are fake unions”.
  50. 50. The strikers received top level support
  51. 51. Premier Wen Jiabao  Urged better treatment for the nation's vast army of migrant labourers.  “Rural migrant workers are the main army of the contemporary Chinese industrial workforce. Our wealth and our tall buildings are all distillations of your hard work and sweat,” Wen told a group of migrant workers in Beijing, the People's Daily reported the following day.  Wen was the first high ranking official to comment publicly about strikes and the current labour situation.  At the end of the meeting, which got top billing on national TV, he said, “The government and all parts of society should treat young migrant workers as they would treat their own children.”
  52. 52. The first Honda parts workers won 24% wage increase  Strikes spread to other Honda parts plants and they won 45% increase
  53. 53. And the strikes spread elsewhere  E.g. Tianjin Mitsumi Electric workers
  54. 54. In Guangdong Province alone  There were 90 work stoppages to demand wage increases mainly in joint ventures or auto parts and electronics industries of the Pearl River Delta (near Hong Kong)
  55. 55. But workers have been striking in China for years  Strikes aren’t illegal in China  In 1982 the right to strike was removed from the constitution but there’s no prohibition on strikes in law  As the income gap widens in China, there is more and more resentment  10,000 ‘mass incidents’ in Pearl River Delta alone; 80,000 countrywide
  56. 56. Robots or people?
  57. 57. Today Chinese Workers Are Fighting Back  Number of protests (gov’t calls them ‘mass incidents’) continues to grow  In ‘05 official stats reported 87,000 and by ‘08 it was 50% higher at 127,000  2011, 180,000 mass incidents  Typically fighting expropriation of homes and land for resource developments (dams, mines etc.) or construction  Industrialized regions 50% of ‘mass incidents’ were over wage arrears, workplace closures, layoffs
  58. 58. Today, in some areas, workers have more power  Elimination of the agricultural tax (over 5 years, now completely gone)  Migrant workers still have title to land and the right to return  After being cheated in the economic meltdown in fall 2008-early 2009, many went home and stayed  Thus creating the most important weapon labour has, a labour shortage
  59. 59. Those that returned to the city (or never left)  Have seen Paris and don’t want to go back home  They live in the cities and want a better life: – Housing, not just dormitories – With kitchens, not just cafeteria food – Consumer goods like what they produce  In order to achieve these goals they need higher wages.
  60. 60. And today the strikes and demonstrations  Are by employed workers  And are not just fighting for unpaid wages, to receive the minimum wage, to receive pay for overtime worked  But are about real increases, real improvements to wages and working conditions  Labour shortages and labour courage have brought this about
  61. 61. Who makes Adidas runners for sale in Germany?
  62. 62. In April, 2014, nobody
  63. 63. Latest big strike  Yue Yuen, manufacturer of Adidas, Nike, Timberland and Converse shoes in southeast (20% of world market for sports and casual shoes)  40,000 workers cheated out of social security premiums not paid by employer: unemployment, old age pension, medical, maternity and occupational injury insurances  Also, majority of workers were not paid housing funds
  64. 64. Benefits paid on average salary vs. actual monthly salary  Workers would thus receive lower retirement benefits  According to local labour laws and regulations, employers must pay an amount equal to about 11 percent of workers' salaries for their social security and other welfare categories, while the workers pay 8 percent of their salaries, "But the company never paid its part for the workers," said the worker.  This is a common practice among manufacturing employers
  65. 65. Workers Struck
  66. 66. First 600 stormed out of work April 5, 2014  Blocked roads  Joined by thousands more on following Monday and Tuesday  A human resources executive who requested anonymity confirmed that the social benefit payments had been shorted. Only about 1,000 workers of the plant's 45,000 have been paid housing funds, he said.
  67. 67. Thousands defied police
  68. 68. Defying police
  69. 69. Effect of Strike and Mediation Efforts  At first the employer agreed to start paying correct insurance premiums but balked at retroactive payments  Nie Xin, an official from the city's publicity department, said Dongguan city government paid great attention to the case after the strike took place at Yue Yuan  A special task force that consisted of more than 80 government officials, trade union executives, legal and labour experts, lawyers and police officers, was immediately set up to help mediate the strike, which raised concerns at home and abroad, Nie told China Daily.  "The task force members met worker representatives to listen to their account and request, and organized discussions with company bosses and senior executives in the past weeks," Nie said.  "The special task force has been working hard to try to make both parties of labour and capital reach an agreement according to laws, regulation and rules," he added.  Employer finally agreed to pay retroactive insurance premiums
  70. 70. Lin Dong Shenzhen Labour Activist  Arrested on 22 April after advising striking workers at the Yue Yuen factory, is being held under a 30-day detention order at the Dongguan Municipal Detention Centre on suspicion of “picking quarrels and creating trouble”  Colleague, Zhang Zhiru, detained 2 days and released
  71. 71. Who will lead the workers?  What about unions in China today?
  72. 72. ACFTU Most Populous Union in World  258 million members
  73. 73. China has many challenges  And a good opportunity to build many successes for workers, and a return to a more egalitarian society  In the Year of the Horse and beyond  Thanks very much.

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