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From: The Socialist issue 994, 9 May 2018: Tories out!

Search site for keywords: China - Strikes - Drivers - Workers - Strike - Construction - Asia - Migrant workers - Construction workers

China: Impressive, coordinated and daring crane drivers' strikes

Crane China, photo stefano meneghetti/CC

Crane China, photo stefano meneghetti/CC   (Click to enlarge)

Crane drivers in China's construction industry have taken strike action in dozens of cities across the country. It is quite simply the most impressive, coordinated and daring action taken by any group of workers in China for many years.

On 1 May, Labour Day, the workers called for a nationwide strike after a week filled with rolling strikes in different regions. Although May Day is a legal holiday in China, large numbers of workers are required to work, often without extra pay.

This is China - where strikes are illegal, organising is illegal, and protests are illegal.

The strike embraced 20 of China's provinces. A striking worker in Chengdu, just one city in one province on strike, told The Global Times newspaper, "There are at least 10,000 crane operators in Chengdu appealing for a salary raise."

The strike faces the world's most powerful dictatorial state.

The crane drivers have organised themselves online like many other workers in China, setting up closed chat groups on instant messaging apps such as QQ. These forums are attacked and blocked by the cyber police but regroup to maintain contact.

China's crane drivers, like almost all construction workers, are mainly migrants from poorer rural regions. Like most migrant workers they are hired casually, without job contracts, pensions or medical insurance. Crane drivers work under extreme pressure, on long shifts, without toilet breaks or rest periods.

Construction sites in China famously work around the clock. "If we are required to work for eight to nine hours, and then work more overtime at night, there will be no extra pay," one crane driver from Henan told Radio Free Asia. "You can work overtime until two o'clock in the morning, and the boss won't care. You can still have to work tomorrow as well."

The crane drivers are demanding a minimum pay of at least 7,000 yuan ($1,100) a month. Their wages have stagnated for a decade.

We are witnessing the stirring of a giant. Half the world's construction sites are in China and its construction workforce numbers around 60 million. It is a major contributor to China's GDP.

Chinaworker.info declares our full solidarity with the striking crane drivers, to fight for the realisation of their demands in full. We deplore the state repression against these workers and call for international workers' solidarity with the strikes, and the release of the arrested strikers. The need for independent workers' unions is once again underlined by this struggle, which also shows the enormous potential power of China's working class.

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Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
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