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Strikes in Non-manufacturing Sectors Gain Traction

Between late March and June, a number of strikes and protests in China’s non-manufacturing sectors gained international attention. In late March more than 2,000 sanitation workers in Shanghai went on a six-day strike to protest against waste management companies’ cuts to their income. After the local government had increased the minimum wage, these sanitation workers—who were barely paid the legal minimum—had their meal subsidies and morning and evening shift allowances cut. Later that month, up to 500 coal miners suffering from pneumoconiosis in Hunan province petitioned the local health authorities to protest the delay in providing them with medical examination records crucial to securing compensation. Then, for days leading up to International Workers’ Day on 1 May, crane operators on construction sites across a dozen provinces staged protests to demand a pay raise, citing relatively low pay for their high-risk work, the lack of paid overtime, and little annual leave. In April, teachers from kindergartens, and public and private schools organised at least 19 protests over pay, performance bonuses, and pensions. The following month, around 200 retired teachers in Anhui province protested to the local government twice within a single week to demand unpaid bonuses. Finally, in early June thousands of truck drivers in at least three cities used their trucks to block roads in protest against rising fuel costs and falling haulage rates that cut into their incomes. Strikes in non-manufacturing sectors such as education, retail, sanitation, and logistics have gained prominence in recent years. In particular, the nationally coordinated strikes by crane operators and truck drivers were significant, hinting at the potential for non-manufacturing workers to organise more networked and less atomised industrial actions. KL

(Sources: China Change 1; China Change 2; China Digital Times; China Labour Bulletin 1; China Labour Bulletin 2; Radio Free Asia 1; Radio Free Asia 2; Wall Street Journal)

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