As a journalist I have written about social issues and international affairs for the Guardian, the Independent, New Internationalist, Huffington Post, Equal Times and the Big Issue in the North, among other titles. I now work at the University of Leeds as a qualified careers professional, helping international students fulfill their career ambitions
The dispute is one of the largest in China's recent history
Workers at a factory in southern China, which makes shoes for Nike
and Adidas, have entered their second week of industrial action in one of the
largest labour disputes at a single enterprise in recent history.
According to US based China Labor Watch (CLW) more than
30,000 employees have been on strike since 14 April at the Yue Yuen Industrial
(Holdings) Ltd factory
– the world’s largest manufacturer of athletic shoes –
in the city of Dongguan.
Despite threats from the factory’s management that staff
could be fired if they fail to return to work, workers said
industrial action would continue until demands for unpaid social insurance and
the right to pick their own union were met.
“Management is being too forceful about workers returning to
work, saying that beginning on the 24th, if workers swipe their cards and then
leave, they will be punished according to absenteeism rules,” one worker told
US based China Labour Watch (CLW).
“Workers can only carry out a work stoppage sitting at their
positions in the facilities in order to protest and demand a reasonable
response from management to workers’ demands.”
On Thursday, Dongguan City Union released an official document pledging its
support for the election of worker representatives and negotiation between
management and the Yue Yuen staff.
The document also contains official responses to worker
demands from the Bureau of Social Insurance, the Bureau of Human Resources, the
Housing Fund Management Centre, and Yue Yuen factory’s management.
In its statement, the Bureau of Social Insurance explained
that the factory must provide past unpaid social insurance to workers.
However, Yue Yuen management stated that the company
reserved the right to fire workers for three days’ absence from work.
On 22 April, two labour activists, Zhang Zhiru and Lin Dong,
who entered the factory to assist workers, were detained by local authorities.
They are yet to be released.
Kevin Slater, Programme Coordinator for CLW, told Equal
Times that the dispute was symbolic of the changing face of labour rights
in a country which is experiencing growing unrest as economic growth slows:
“The Yue Yuen strike is emblematic of a confluence of
factors that are increasingly defining labour politics in China. Policy changes have made
legally enshrined rights like social insurance more salient for workers.
“At the same time, brand companies are asking supplier
factories to meet evermore stringent price and time demands, to which the
factories ultimately adapt via suppressing labour costs, like social insurance.
The Yue Yuen strike also clarifies the need for effective
organization and representation of workers in the Chinese workplace.”
Hong Kong-based rights group, China Labour Bulletin (CLB),
recorded 202 labour disputes in the country during the first quarter of 2014 –
a year-on-year increase of more than 30 per cent.
Geoff Crothall, Communications Director of CLB, predicts
industrial action will continue to increase in the future as Chinese workers
become more aware of their rights.
“The Yue Yuen strike is important for two reasons: firstly
because of the sheer scale of the workers’ action. Up to 40,000 workers
participated in the strike, making it one of the largest at single enterprise
in recent memory.
“The strike highlights the increasingly important issue of
social insurance benefits. For much of the reform era in China, migrant workers in
particular simply did not have pensions or any kind of social safety net.
“In the last few years, however, workers have become more
aware of their rights to social security and are more determined to claim those
rights, particularly as they get older and start thinking about retirement. The
issue will only grow in importance in the future.”
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Last week the Guardian hosted a debate in collaboration with
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If members of the audience were in any doubt about the
potential for gambling to cause harm, few remained unconvinced after hearing
the first speaker, Paul Buck, recount his personal story. Buck who is the
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after graduating …
Over the past few years I have had the privilege of working as a freelance journalist, covering issues which I care about - from miscarriages of justice to disability rights - for numerous publications. I have thoroughly enjoyed this experience and have learned a great deal from researching social issues and interviewing fascinating people. Unfortunately, during the last few months I have been unable to write as much as I would have liked, owing to commitments related to a career transition.
Through my writing I have become increasingly interested in labour issues, including youth unemployment, graduate prospects, worker instability, the growth of freelancing and self-employment. This interest has led me to pursue a second career as a consultant, helping students in higher education to navigate the challenging and often confusing world of work as they plan their future careers.
I am often asked by
friends and acquaintances why I decided to learn Chinese. There is no simple
answer to this question. However, in this post I will attempt to summarise some
of the main reasons and describe my experience of joining an estimated 200,000 Brits
as a student of the world’s most spoken language.
I started working
at the University of Leeds two years ago, following a career transition. Having
moved to a new city I was looking for things to do which would enable me to
meet new people in my spare time. I noticed that the Business Confucius
Institute (BCI) were offering Chinese evening classes on the
university campus and, together with a friend who had also recently moved to
the city, decided to sign up to a beginner (level 1) class.
decision was made on a whim – there were no grand career ambitions, set goals
or plans to travel to China in the immediate future. Part of my attraction to
the challenge o…