Striking sanitation workers make demands heard in summer heat

A spike in sanitation worker strikes occurred in August, where some of China’s lowest paid and poorly protected workers demanded wage increases and better working conditions. Striking workers left garbage uncollected in the summer heat on private property developments and public city streets, forcing residents and municipal officials to attend to their demands.

The six strikes last month harken back to a similar wave of sanitation worker actions in August 2014, most notably the successful strikes of the Guangzhou University Town sanitation workers with the assistance of the Panyu Workers Centre, a local labour NGO. Many of the Centre’s staff members were arrested in a crackdown on labour activists on 3 December last year and the Centre’s director Zeng Feiyang and staff member Meng Han have since been in detention for nine months without trial.

Dozens arrested in city sanitation strike in Guilin

Nearly 40 workers were arrested on 23 August during their second strike in a month demanding wage increases.

The municipal sanitation worker of Lipu county first went on strike in late July protesting a low monthly take home pay of just 1,200 yuan. With no response from officials, workers went on strike once more and published a list of demands, including a monthly pay of 2,000 yuan with annual increases, full social insurance, paid vacation, and  that all these conditions be included in a new contract.

Three elderly workers were hospitalized during the police arrests. The sanitation workers clean the streets of Lipu county, which is part of the greater Guilin area, one of China’s biggest tourist destinations.

Workers force residents to pick up their own trash

16 sanitation workers went on strike in early August in Shangrao, Jiangxi protesting four months of unpaid wages. In an interview with local media, residents complained of the unbearable smell as trash lay uncollected for days through the summer sun and rain.

Residents and the property management company were forced to assemble their own teams to collect the garbage. The news report claimed the arrears came from some residents not paying fees to the management company.

In August there were similar incidents at private estates across China in the cities of Yantai, Kunming and Yangzhou where workers demanded better pay and conditions from property management companies.

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