Updates on Workers’ Protests in Liaoyang and Daqing

Last Friday (July 19), dozens of retired workers at Liaoyang Ferroalloy Factory petitioned the city government demanding the release of the four workers’ representatives arrested this March. They also demanded the payment of wage arrears owed by the factory.

The protesting workers were told that the arrested four had been formally charged. However, the Complaints Office refused to confirm on the charge in a follow-up call from China Labour Bulletin. The charge was further called into question when an official at the Liaoyang Intermediate People’s Court indicated that he was not aware of the charge, and speculated that “the four would not be put on trial”.

Yao Fuxin (54), Pang Qingxiang (58), Xiao Yunliang (57) and Wang Zhaoming (39) were arrested for their leading roles in the workers’ protests against corruption and demanded payment of pensions and wage arrears. In 2001, management at Liaoyang Ferroalloy Factory, acting in collusion with corrupt local officials, forced the enterprise into bankruptcy, rendering more than 4,000 workers unemployed. The workers were left not only without fair compensation, but also owed a full year's wages.

Workers in Liaoyang are also plunged into the widely used unilateral severance plan – selling off seniority. 'Selling off seniority' has no basis in Chinese law, and no official compensatory benchmarks. Under this plan, state workers are given one-off payment and removed from the factory’s books. In practice, state enterprises can easily lay off workers and buy off, often very cheaply, all future obligations to them.

A woman worker at a carton factory in Liaoyang complained that they had no choice but taking the deal for fear that they would not even get a cent later. Now that the city government declared demonstrations illegal, and workers’ representatives [of the Ferroalloy Factory – Ed.] arrested, disgruntled workers were reluctant to take to the streets, she said.

Government clampdown on workers’ protests has also kept workers off the streets in Daqing.

According to information obtained by China Labour Bulletin on July 19, workers’ protests in Daqing have petered out after the arrest of most of the leaders, and the problems were left unresolved.

A retired woman worker told China Labour Bulletin, "The government doesn’t give a damn to our demands. We have given up….Who can beat the government?"

On March 1, 2002, about 3,000 employees of Daqing Petroleum Administration Bureau (DPAB) marched into the Bureau's headquarters to protest against the management's unilateral breach of their [selling off seniority] severance deal. By March 4, the number of protesters has risen to over 50,000.

China Labour Bulletin
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