China’s sanitation workers were back in the news again last month, staging protests over low pay and benefits in three cities; Shanghai, Liuzhou in Guangxi and Taiyuan in Shanxi.
Sanitation workers are among the lowest-paid workers in China, they have few if any benefits, and have to work long hours in hazardous conditions. Conditions are so dangerous in fact that sanitation workers account for about 13 percent of all the work-related accidents recorded on CLB’s Work Accident Map.
Because of their precarious working conditions, sanitation workers are also often among the most unified and determined in China when it comes to collective action. They were particularly active in 2013 and 2014, accounting for 19 percent of all service sector protests recorded on the CLB Strike Map during those two years. Probably the best known and most successful protest at that time was the two-week Guangzhou University Town strike in 2014, which gained national media attention.
However, many of the grievances raised by workers four years ago are still evident today, as the two incidents detailed below illustrate.