Daqing Oilfield Workers’ Struggle (3)

27 June 2019

(Broadcast on 6 March, 2002)

The protests waged by the retrenched workers from DPAB started on 1March were on their sixth day of action. Around 9 a.m. on 6 March, about 30,000 workers marched in the streets. A bus inspector who takes charge of the bus route 36, the line between Daqing and Ranghulu district, talks about the local traffic in these few days.

Inspector:

Troubles are heading towards the DPAB headquarters. It's all to do with the retrenched workers. Roads were blocked over there, and cars can't go through. Cars can only run along the Century Boulevard (Shiji dadao). The blockade started from around 9 a.m. yesterday.

Han:

And it has lasted till…?

Inspector:

Till probably after 4 p.m. The same story has repeated today.

Han:

How many people have come today?

Inspector:

Many, I have heard there are many! About 30,000 to 40,000 of people are making trouble there. These trouble makers did not paid the bus fares, taking free rides! There was nothing you could do about it, not even forcing them to get down. They would not be forced down anyway.

Han:

How do your colleagues view the workers' protest actions?

Inspector:

We all think that what the DPAB has done is quite unreasonable.

An official from the DPAB Trade Union talks about the establishment of a provisional union by the retrenched workers.

Han:

It is said that a provisional trade union has been formed, is it true?

DPAB Trade Union:

No, absolutely not.

Han:

Would you work with them if the workers organize their own trade union ?

Union:

No no no, because they are no longer employees any more. Their labour contracts have been terminated. They have not got anything to do with the enterprise for a long time. How could you call them employees?

Han:

But the situation has blown up now.

Union:

Yet how could it be handled? Who can settle this problem now? Who can ever promise anything to forty to fifty thousand workers?

On the phone, an official of DPAB advised me not to investigate anymore. Even if I press on with my questions, I will not be told the truth.

Official:

Say, if I tell you there has been 20,000 or just 10,000 protesters, the number may not be the same in the actual report to the higher authorities. Yet if I don't tell you the truth, your news broadcast will be faulted. Am I right? We have to hold a uniform publicity line. Not that I do not want to say anything. But the thing is that the Central TV and Radio stations, as well as Xinhua News Agency are all interviewing the heads of DPAB for causes and development [of the protests]. Yet all you ask is how many people there are [on the streets]. Are you saying that the whole story [as told by the authorities] is not the truth? That's why it is pointless for you to get any [information] from me. Don't you think so?

Han:

So you are afraid that what you say might not be the same as what the leaders say?

Official:

Yes, yes. Something is beyond our imagination.

The chairman of the DPAB Trade Union then told me that all the decisions were made by the Beijing authority.

Chairman:

We cannot intervene in anything. Those members of the local party committee are holding meetings to examine the case. How can we intervene?

Han:

Yet should not the trade union play a more active role in it?

Chairman:

Play a role ? Me? I listen to the party committee. I have to follow the orders given by our party committee.

Han:

What was the order?

Chairman:

The party committee demands a unitary line. We cannot say things without caution.

Han:

Yet, yesterday, the president of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU), Wei Jianxing, just spoke at the annual session of the CPPCC and asked the trade unions to stand up to defend workers' rights at situation like this?

Chairman:

Stand up and speaking out for them? Are they still workers? Their contracts have terminated. They have nothing to do with the enterprise. They are unemployed. What kind of workers are they?

Han:

So the DPAB Trade Union will definitely not take care of them ?

Chairman:

We listen to the party committee. You go and ask the committee what the arrangement is. We do whatever the party committee asks us to do. I suggest that you talk to someone from the committee. We have to toe one line. We cannot just say anything we like.

Han:

But if the demands of the workers are reasonable, why wouldn't the union help them?

Chairman:

There is nothing reasonable there. I cannot help them.

Han:

Is there really nothing reasonable?

Chairman:

Reasonable or not, you should take the question to the Beijing headquarters. Talk to the managing director, Ma Fucai (managing director of China Petroleum and Natural Gas Incorporated) at the Beijing headquarters. He knows best. The petroleum industry involves not only one area. Actually 400,000 workers have been retrenched.400,000! It is not just the business of Daqing Oilfield. It happens to every oilfield all over China! The policies are made by the Beijing headquarters, not us. If you press on further, you'll hit upon the State Council. This is all the business of the leaders. What can you say about the business of the State Council? Can you refuse to execute its order? If you would like to discuss these in depths, go ask the ACFTU in Beijing. These problems have been studied long time ago. It's not something which just happens this year. The re-structuring has been completed now. The company has been listed in the stock market already. What can you say? They are not happy? The [retrenchment] agreement has been signed anyway, what else could they say?

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