Workers Protest Against Severance Pay in Jiangxi Province

29 November 2001
From November 26 to 28, 2001, 600 workers protested in Nanchang City, Jiangxi Province, for three consecutive days over the amount of their severance pay by the city government.

Workers of the Jiangxi Chemical Fibre Factory in Nanchang City blocked Qing Shan Road in front of the factory to protest the city government’s arrangement to give workers severance pay of RMB800 for every year of service, capping at RMB20,000, as the factory owned by the local government prepares to shut down.

A worker from Nanchang called China Labour Bulletin (CLB), and disclosed that one person was arrested on November 28 for shouting “Down with the Communist Party.” During the first two days, the police used water cannons to disperse workers, and on November 28, the police closed the factory gates locking the workers inside the factory. The caller went on to say that, while the workers’ severance package was miserly, the Nanchang City government planned to spend RMB1 billion on greening the city. The workers were upset about this distribution of funds.

An official at the Nanchang City branch of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) confirmed the severance arrangement, and agreed it was insufficient. The official added that, as far as he knew, in October and November this year, there were three workers’ protests, involving close to 10,000 workers within the light industry alone. He also confirmed that the police arrested two workers from Jiangxi Chemical Fibre Factory. Talking about the state enterprise reform, he said that the government always viewed the workers as opponents, and they fired them rather than improving the enterprise. After they messed up the workers, they simply turned on them to get even. He further commented that any measure of the state enterprise reform should put worker’livelihood first, and that without workers’support, the measures would not work.

Nonetheless, an official at the factory branch of ACFTU talked to CLB that they were assisting the enterprise and the local government to undertake “ideological work” among the workers [to the end of putting a stop to the their action – Ed]. He added that from the very top to the bottom, the ACFTU could not do anything other than the “ideological work” in the process of state enterprise reform.

Finally an official at the Legal Department of the Nanchang City brance of the ACFTU told CLB that the most important part of the revised Trade Union Law was that any employer violating the rights of workers or trade unions would have to take legal responsibility. But he added that the ACFTU would have to follow the Party’s direction when protecting workers’ rights in accordance with the Trade Union Law. “We cannot go wrong if we follow the Party’s direction”, he said.

According to information received by the workers, the factory plans to close down to avoid debtors’claims and will reopen elsewhere under a different name. The same workers will be rehired but will only receive about half of their present salaries.

(China Labour Bulletin, 29/11/2001)
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