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Selling tofu to Botswana

What happens when a Chinese construction company tries to bribe a senior government official in Botswana to turn a blind eye to structural problems discovered in a new school the company was building in the Okavango delta?

Migrant workers once again the victims after Beijing’s deluge

Zhao Lupo is a hero. The 40-year-old migrant worker from Anhui reportedly saved five people during the devastating rainstorm that hit suburban Beijing last week. But when he went to the local village disaster relief office he was told to get lost because local villagers had priority in the distribution of relief supplies.

Are Chinese transport workers learning from Western transport unions?

Last week, London bus drivers, members of Britain’s largest trade union, Unite, voted by more than 90 percent for strike action during the upcoming Olympic Games to press their claim for a £500 bonus. At the same time, more than 80 percent of the taxi drivers in the town of Yueqing, near Wenzhou, went out on strike on the first day of the national college examination (高考) in a bid to draw attention to the unfair competition they face from unlicensed cabs.

Wen Jiabao shows he is in touch with China’s workers - almost

Every year on Labour Day, China’s leaders make a big show of thanking the country’s workers for their endeavours and their contributions to the national economy. It is a well-rehearsed and rather tired publicity stunt not normally worthy of comment but this year Premier Wen Jiabao did something a bit more interesting. He visited bus crews and sanitation workers, two groups of workers who have been at the forefront of labour activism over the last few years.

Women workers in China standing up to discrimination

In the United States, the “war on women” often garners banner headlines as activists try to halt the alarming rollback of women’s rights. In China, the erosion of women’s rights has been quieter but in many ways just as worrying. And in response, women in China too are increasingly willing to stand up to widespread and widely-accepted discrimination in the workplace and society in general.

Cambodia’s workers have little to celebrate during Hu Jintao’s visit

Chinese President Hu Jintao’s four-day state visit to Cambodia this weekend marks the culmination of a massive surge in investment and trade that has transformed this impoverished nation. Take a drive along National Highway 3 or 4 out of the capital Phnom Penh and you will see vast tracks of new Chinese-owned factories and huge billboards advertising land for rent in Chinese.

Please call: Shanxi trade union officials “reach out” to workers

If you ever doubted that most Chinese trade union officials are hopelessly out of touch with ordinary workers, you just have to read today’s Global Times. The English-language tabloid announced that the Shanxi Federation of Trade Unions had ordered the province’s 100,000 or so enterprise union leaders to publicise their phone numbers and other contact details in a bid to make the union more accessible to workers.

The real reason Foxconn raised wages in Shenzhen

Once again people are making a big deal about Foxconn raising wages, linking the increase announced in Taipei on Friday evening to growing criticism in the international media of the company’s work practices. The real reason that the electronics giant is raising wages again, I suspect however, is simply because the Shenzhen municipal government increased the statutory minimum wage on 1 February by about 13 percent to 1,500 yuan per month, forcing Foxconn to do likewise in order to maintain its current pay differentials.

China’s misplaced concerns over workers in Africa

All of a sudden China’s overseas workers are headline news. The official Chinese media and the Internet have been flooded with expressions of concern and outrage at the abduction of 29 Chinese road workers in Sudan. While some bloggers are demanding commando raids to rescue the workers, the Global Times took a rather more measured approach, urging Chinese embassies to do more to protect Chinese nationals, and for individuals to be more safety conscious when working overseas.

Mind the gap: Apple’s code of conduct and China’s labour laws

When Apple, one of the world’s most secretive companies, was winning plaudits for finally revealing the names of its supplier companies in its 2012 Supplier Responsibility Progress Report last Friday, one small detail seems to have been overlooked.


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