A tale of two state workers protests

There are – very broadly speaking – two kinds of state-sector protests in China. The first kind is in response to factory disputes related to privatisation – essentially a loose continuation of the state-sector restructure that started in the 1990s – which has been happening in relatively small numbers over the last decade. On April 4, some 5,000 workers at a state-owned distillery factory in Sichuan went on strike against what they saw as unfair treatment during privatisation. Similar to past disputes, workers were angered by the compensation plan: front-line workers were paid 2,000 yuan for per year of service, whereas the managers payed 8,000 yuan. So for a worker of 20 years of service, the compensation is only 40,000 yuan, or about what an average worker earns a year. Moreover, those on strike complained that social insurance and housing funds were not paid properly by the company. A few days later, on April 5 and 6, more than 1,000 workers at a state-owned steel plant in Hebei staged a protest in relation to the layoff of 4,000 workers as the plant cuts excess production, a second kind and a more recent development as a consequence of industrial overcapacity. Workers were not satisfied about healthcare and re-employment compensations, and on the first day blocked the road, a common tactic by workers. Interestingly, while these are *supposed* to be two kinds of state-sector protests, they are in many ways indistinguishable in terms of demands and tactics – and both have been met with police suppression.

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