1. Editor's Note
In this Issue:
1. Editor's Note
2. Overview of Occupational Safety Laws
3. Firework industry
4. Coal Mines
5. Heat wave kills some 30 migrant workers – union claims the deaths are not “union business”
6. Workers Protests: Focus on Anshan Steel workers
7. Liaoyang Two: Update on Yao Fuxin and Xiao Yunliang
8. News Review
This issue looks at the catalogue of accidents that have occurred in China during the summer months and focuses attention on the impact of current regulations on two of the most dangerous industries in China; coal mining and firework production. It analyzes current regulations and procedures which are designed to improve occupation health and safety in China, but which are failing to have any real impact on the continuing deaths and injuries in China's workplaces.
We also look at the situation of workers from the Anshan Iron and Steel Corporation who have been forced to travel to Beijing three times in the recent months after local authorities have repeatedly ignored their demands for negotiation.
Finally, we give some news and updates on the continuing detention of Yao Fuxin and Xiao Yunliang and the recent decision by the Hong Kong SAR government to withdraw its proposed national security legislation which we believed - as did many groups world wide - would unduly restrict the fundamental rights of the Hong Kong people to freedom of association and expression.
"The absence of rigor and the failure of implementation: Occupational health and safety in China"
This article gives an overview of recent developments in occupational health and safety regulations and thinking. It discusses the major shortcomings of the current situation and argues that despite governmental concerns with occupational health and safety and the promulgation of new laws and regulations in 2002, a lack of rigor and implementation remain the primary obstacles to realizing improvements in workplace safety.
Catalogue of human deaths in China’s firework factories
In the space of only a few days in July and August at least 31 people died in accidents in firework factories in China. The firework industry remains one of the most dangerous occupations in China. Firework production in China is often concentrated in small village or township level enterprise with some production work carried out in village homes, often with the extensive use of child labour, making it one of the more difficult industries to monitor and regulate.
On 9 September, yet another accident occurred in Beihai City, Hepu County, Guangzi Province which killed some ten people.
Continuing Carnage in China’s coal mines: Official responses and recommendations
Despite many years of regulations designed to improve work safety, accidents continue to occur on an almost daily basis. According to official statistics, which are believed to be well below the real figures, an average of 18 mine workers are killed each day in China. This article looks at some of the most recent accidents and the most recent government responses. It also makes several recommendations which would help improve current safety levels.
News and Interviews
Heat wave kills some 30 migrant workers – union claims the deaths are not “union business”
The heat wave which affected many parts of China during June, July and August led to many deaths of manual workers undertaking outdoor employment. The national statistics are not known, but CLB investigated reports from Zhejiang province which stated that in the city of Shaoxing alone, over 30 people had died - the majority of whom were migrant workers. In interviews, the local ACFTU officials claimed that the deaths had nothing to do with the work of a trade union and instead were the responsibility of the local labour departments.
3 September: Heat wave causes deaths of migrant workers(article)
7 August: Interviews with trade union officials and others (interviews)
6 June: Zhejiang General Union issues notice relating to the heat wave (news)
Focus on Anshan Workers
For the past two months, retired and retrenched workers in Anhsan have been protesting against recent lay offs at the Anshan Iron and Steel Group and the minimal compensation they have received from the company. Groups of workers representing hundreds have already traveled to Beijing three times to petition the central authorities for an investigation into their claims.
Anshan Steel operate a policy of “30:50” which means they retrench workers with either thirty years of service and those over 50 years of age. The policy means that workers who have often spent their lives working for the Group are given less than 10,000 Yuan for a lifetime’s work and with little or no access to other benefits.
11 September: Summary of events and links to interviews
Since the launch of the joint LabourStart / CLB campaign we have had over 2,183 signatures. Many people have also sent their personal letters to the provincial and national authorities calling for the release of Yao Fuxin and Xiao Yunliang and stressing the fact that the light of the two men is known throughout the world. One reader wrote that “Remember, if I, in Minnesota, USA, know about these deplorable conditions, so do many others everywhere. And I assure you, that when the right actions are taken in this case, the world will give you credit for saving lives”.
CLB has learned that both families were allowed to visit the men at Jinzhou prison on 20 and 21st of August. The health of both men continues to be of serious concern.
CLB wishes to thank everyone that has written and asks that you continue working for their release and continue writing letters to the authorities. We will send out regular updates.
Selected News Review
6 September: Article 23 : Government proposals withdrawn after months of campaigning
5 June: Hubei High People’s Court verdict on the appeal by the Tieshu Workers
2 September: Tieshu workers vow to continue to demand their rights(news)
23 June: Teachers in Suizhou claim missing redundancy payments (interviews)
6 September: 1.8 million workers without formal work contracts in Zhejiang alone (article)
10 September: Migrant construction workers beaten after claiming wage arrears (news)
30 June: International Convention on the protection of the rights of all migrants and members of their families(news)
Health and Safety
4 September: Typhoon flattens illegally constructed factory killing 16 migrant workers(news)
11 August: Illegal construction site collapses killing seven, injuring 41 workers(news)
6 August: Workers beaten at Panyu factory with no union representation(interviews)