China Labour Action Express No. 34 (2003-08-04)

04 August 2003
Press Release

5 August 2003

Over 100 workers’ representatives from a property development company under the Anshan Iron and Steel Group Corporation in Liaoning Province have been demonstrating outside the offices of the newly formed State Asset Management Commission in protest against the minimal compensation given to them after they were laid off.

The workers have been holding daily protests outside the government offices in central Beijing (Xuanwumen and Fuxingmen Dajie) since last week. This is now the third time this year that they have been to Beijing to bring their complaints to the central authorities. The first time was in March 2003.

The group in Beijing represents some 3,000 workers who were laid off in 2000 and asked to take 400 Yuan (approx. US$ 48) compensation for every year of employment with the company.

One worker interviewed told CLB that the workers had been trying to negotiate with the company management before they came to Beijing. The dialogue had failed because the company had sent low level representatives who had no power to take decisions or to actually negotiate terms of a settlement. After many months of negotiations the workers realized that the company was not serious and they had little option but to take their dispute to the higher authorities.

Another worker also informed CLB that while the redundancy terms were being discussed, the company’s trade union – a branch of the official state sponsored All China Federation of Trade Unions – did not play any part in discussions and did not support the workers calls for more equitable compensation. The worker went on to say that the local trade union was in fact “under the leadership of the management and unable to take any independent position”.

A worker complained to CLB that the General Manger of the Anshan Group was at the same time not only the Group Communist Party Secretary, but was also the general manger of several of the smaller companies under the Group’s supervision. The worker believed that this concentration of authority in one manager had exacerbated the inability of companies within the Group to reform and negotiate directly with their workers.

The State Asset Management Commission later told CLB that in response to the protests, the Anshan Group was sending representatives to Beijing to talk to the workers and that the Commission would try to help bring the two sides into talks.

The State Asset Management Commission was recently set up in a bid to supervise and regulate state owned assets, including the overseeing of the often chaotic restructuring within state owned factories.

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