Over 50,000 workers from China’s Daqing Oilfield in the country’s Northeast have been staging mass protests and street demonstrations since March 1. Despite the deployment of police and an army tank regiment, the protests continue as oil workers protesting the state-owned oil company’s breach of their redundancy agreements regularly gather outside the headquarters of the Petroleum Administration Bureau (PAB).
The laid-off workers, angered by the company’s elimination of winter heating subsidies and other items agreed upon as terms of retrenchment, have organized an independent union committee and sought to negotiate, but the company, the government, and the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) have declared the workers’ action illegal.
The latest news reports describe troops moving into position around the city, with some 300 armed military police outside the PAB office. Solidarity demonstrations by oil workers in two other provinces have been reported.
The Chinese government’s attitude is neatly summed up in the remarks of ACFTU President Wei Jianxing, who on March 4 stated to a group of official union representatives that “The trade unions [i.e. the ACFTU] have to grasp what the workers think, and educate the workers to bear the overall situation in mind and put the general interest above all, and take a correct stand in the light of adjusting interests in the economic reforms.” The Local ACFTU representative, commenting on the Daqing workers’ election of independent representatives, stated that workers themselves had no right to form unions.
The IUF and other international trade union organizations have written the President of China to warn against the use of army and police to repress the workers’ struggle.
Worker protests continue to spread across the country with over 30,000 workers from 20 state enterprises in Liaoyang, Liaoning prince demonstrating since mid-March outside government offices including the Public Security Bureau. The workers have been demanding the payment of wage arrears, an end to corruption, and the release of the independent workers’ representative Yao Fuxin. Yao Fuxin, a laid-off worker from the Ferroalloy Factory, was elected as one of the delegates to negotiate with government officials. Police deny holding him, but have declared the protests illegal and continue to search for the other elected worker representatives.