Unrest rises as losses hit pay
By CHAN WAI-FONG
WORKERS unrest spread in China's northeast Shandong province in the first six months of the year as businesses found it increasingly difficult to pay their employees.
Official statistics show the number of complaints by workers in the province soared between January and June.
The All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) in Shandong alone received 274 complaints, a 155 per cent increase from the same period last year.
And the number of worker-related 'incidents' also doubled, according to a report by the Shandong ACFTU's political research office.
It said that more than half these incidents were caused by workers who had problems maintaining their livelihoods, as more factories in the province were hit by losses.
The report said many workers had petitioned by sending letters and paying visits to the ACFTU.
But it gave no detail on the types of incidents that had occurred.
Reports of unrest due to deteriorating living standards, as work units were hit by serious debts and spiralling inflation, had increased during the past year, the report said.
Beijing had tried to keep the situation under control by paying outstanding salaries and tightening its grip on independent workers' organisations.
The report said abuses of workers' rights by bosses, particularly those of foreign-owned enterprises, were yet another reason behind the mounting petitions.
'It is common to have mismanagement, poor working and living conditions, prolonged working hours and physical punishment in these enterprises,' the report said, blaming the problems on the low number of unions.
In March, only 48 per cent of the 4,300 foreign-owned enterprises had unions, according to official statistics.
But Hong Kong unionists said Chinese unions were tools used by the Government to control workers, since genuine workers' organisations and strikes were banned.
And provincial governments should be held responsible for the low rate of unionisation in these enterprises, one unionist said.
'Some officials are afraid that foreign investors will be scared away by unions,' he said.' The ACFTU report also said workers had various levies forced upon them.
Corruption among senior staff was another cause of workers' complaints, the report said.