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Striking workers make headway in China

While protest in China is far more widespread than most people recognize, recent high-profile strikes by workers in China, which we’ve noted on this site, appear to be having an effect, according to The Guardian.

Officials in Guangdong province – for years the country’s manufacturing heartland – are debating proposals which activists say could be a landmark, allowing workers to democratically elect representatives to carry out collective bargaining.

“The pressure of low pay, long working hours and poor working conditions that gave rise to the wave of strikes across Guangdong have elicited a timely and positive response from the government,” said Han Dongfang, executive director of the Hong Kong-based group China Labour Bulletin.

He said it showed an important change in the government’s attitude towards workers’ reasonable economic demands.

According to Chinese media, the revised draft law states that if more than a fifth of the workforce at a factory ask for wage negotiations with management, the trade union branch must organise the democratic election of representatives. If the company does not have a union, the nearest district union must arrange the vote. Union leaders in China are appointed officials and independent unions are not permitted.

Interesting, one economics professor in China interviewed in the piece says that workers are feeling empowered by the internet, where despite of government censorship, they have been able to read about how strikes have successfully won better wages and working conditions in other Chinese factories.