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Economy down industrial strife up

HONG KONG (AsiaNews): Strikes and protests have increased in China during the third quarter of this year, especially in the manufacturing and construction sectors, the China Labour Bulletin reports.

The Hong Kong-based non-government organisation drew up a strike map that shows the extent of this trend during the third quarter of 2015. Specifically, it recorded 593 incidents, 219 of them in the manufacturing sector.

China’s manufacturing activity was down for the second consecutive month in September and this is being reflected by unrest on the factory floor. On average, there were nearly three strikes and protests a day, predominately over reduced or unpaid wages.

The construction industry is the second most affected sector. It is also one of the most sensitive in China’s economy, since it has been one of the main factors behind the extraordinary growth in the gross national product over the past two decades.

As unsold land and unpaid bank loans grow, so does the risk that the real estate bubble will burst. Meanwhile, labour action is also up, especially in construction, which represented 31 per cent of all walkouts in the third quarter.

These are high figures for this time of year, but it is the months leading up to the Lunar New Year, when construction workers are most likely to demand payment of arrears in wages, that traditionally show the greatest amount of labour unrest.

The worst may be yet to come. Migrant workers employed in the construction industry number in the hundreds of millions. Increasingly, as they are denied their wages, they can take extreme measures.

In the third quarter some groups of workers have climbed onto rooftops and threatened to jump, with six such incidents in the manufacturing city of Dongguan alone. In Jiaxing, Zhejiang, there were three such incidents in the span of just 10 days.

To counter the trend, the authorities have beefed up police presence. As a consequence, police intervention and arrests in labour disputes have increased, with arrests being reported at 10 per cent of all incidents in September.

In Henan on September 23, there were reports of shots being fired when police used force to break up a group of miners blocking the road in a protest over unpaid wages.


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