About 200 miners are prepared to take to the streets in Taiyuan today after the mainland's largest coal-mining enterprise told them their contracts would not be renewed.
More than 2,000 employees who had worked for state-owned Xishan Coal Electricity Group, formerly the Xishan Mining Bureau, in Shanxi for at least 10 years were laid off within the past four months, miner Lan Weizhen said yesterday.
The miners tried to speak to the company's petitioning department but, having received no response, decided to petition the provincial government in Taiyuan today.
They planned to take their grievances to Beijing if necessary, Mr Lan said. 'We want the company to take us back, accept our long service and grant us our permanent worker status,' said the miner, who had worked in the company for 18 years.
They suspected the company refused to renew their contracts because it wanted to pre-empt the new Labour Contract Law, which takes effect in January and will require employers to sign open-ended job contracts with workers who have worked 10 years or completed two consecutive contracts.
Legal experts have said that employers can still fire staff on open-ended contracts, but the new requirements will offer employees better protection.
All the miners who lost their jobs with Xishan are in their early 40s. New workers had been hired from the countryside, Mr Lan said.
'I worked for them from the time I was 20 up to 40 years old, and now all of a sudden, I have lost my job,' said Feng Yongzhen, another miner. 'They don't care about our children. They don't care about our parents.'
Mr Feng said he could not find a job anywhere else at his age and could not go back to farming, as he no longer owned land or had the required skills.
'We hope the government can give us a solution. But we are not confident about that, as Xishan is a state-owned company,' he said.
The different tactics that companies used to neutralise the new Labour Contract Law came to the forefront recently with the dismissal and re-employment of 7,000 long-serving employees by Shenzhen-based telecommunications company Huawei.
Huawei stopped the layoffs after meeting the official trade union.