WTO Fears Lead to Strike

Refinery Protest Against Job Losses

Demonstrations and strikes are entering their fourth week at the Yanshan Petrochemical Complex in Fangshan county, near the capital Beijing. According to reliable media reports, tens of thousands of workers are staging protests against feared plans to downsize the workforce in order to raise profits for a planned share issue.

Management at the parent company, China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation has promised investors it will implement a major redundancy programme among the 500,000-strong workforce. The Yanshan Petrochemical Complex has 100,000 staff, workers and pensioners on its books and rumours are rife that up to 10,000 of them are due for the sack.

Apart from the demonstrations and go-slows, over 1,000 workers from Yanshan’s transport section have refused to turn up for work and this has had a major knock-on effect on the production process. Although workers say they are not formally on strike - strike action has no legal protection in China and strike leaders are often arrested - they are demanding that management negotiate any changes in the pipeline. One worker said “[W]e are all very angry about what is happening. We don’t know what our future will be like. The leaders are refusing to talk to us.” Pensioners attached to the company have also been staging demonstrations, fearing they will not get their allowances following restructuring. A worker named Zhang told a reporter that “[T]he situation has become critical…[W]e think this is to do with entry into the World Trade Organisation”.

A company official, Xiao Du, admitted there was industrial unrest but said that it was normal for problems to exist between management and workers, especially at a time when the company was trying to reduce “labour needs”. He said there would only be “a few thousand” redundancies and that management was involved in “intense ideological work” with employees facing the sack. Management insisted that the redundancies were tied to compensation packages of up to Rmb 100,000 for those with over 20 years of service behind them.

(HK: South China Morning Post, 15/06/01)
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