Thousands of steelworkers in the central Chinese city of Wugang striking at the weekend for higher wages were met by some 300 police who beat strikers and took away organizers, witnesses said.
The strike at state-run Wuyang Iron and Steel Co. in Henan province began on Friday and at its peak drew nearly 10,000 workers, who blocked roads and carried banners demanding higher pay and better management.
“There was a strike by the steel factory workers as they are not happy with low wages and they can’t afford to feed their families and send their kids to school,” a worker told RFA’s Mandarin Service. “Their salaries are not even enough to make a living.”
“They are furious about the company’s messy management and their own low income,” said a worker at the plant who spoke on condition of anonymity. He estimated that 2,000 workers had downed tools and joined the strike on Saturday.
“The company suffered big losses because of mismanagement, but no senior managers took responsibility. Instead they still took home a high salary and fat bonus despite the fact that workers couldn’t even get their salaries,” added the worker.
A third worker said the workers at Wugang went on strike because the factory was “unreasonably wrong” in its treatment of employees.
“My daughter’s monthly salary is only 2,000 yuan (about U.S. $330) and she has been working for more than 10 years,” said the worker, who like his colleagues, spoke on condition of anonymity.
“How could 2,000 yuan be enough? Workers earn half less of the salary of cadres and workers don’t have year-end bonuses, so they can’t afford to celebrate the Chinese New Year,” he added.
Calls to the Wuyang Iron and Steel Co. on Monday went unanswered.
Workers told RFA that 300-400 police disrupted the strike, beating some workers and taking away those they identified as leaders of the strike.
The walkout followed the publication last week of a report by the Hong Kong-based China Labour Bulletin (CLB) which that said Chinese workers had staged hundreds of strikes in the final quarter of 2014, many of them over unpaid wages ahead of the Chinese New Year holiday.
The group said it had recorded 569 incidents during the fourth quarter, more than three times the number in the same period in 2013, and that unrest had intensified ahead of Chinese New Year, which falls this year on Feb. 19.
Workers' demands for wage arrears, pay increases, and compensation dominated labor disputes, accounting for more than 87 percent of the incidents recorded, it said.
The rapid increase in labor unrest is also linked to China's economic slowdown, as well as the easy availability of smart phones and social media with which to coordinate action, the group said.
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service and by RFA's Cantonese Service. Translated by Feng Xiaoming and Shiny Li. Written in English by Paul Eckert.