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Death imitates art in China’s coal mines

The similarities are chilling. In the multi-award winning movie Blind Shaft (盲井), two miners trick young migrants into working with them as their “relative” before killing them and extorting compensation from the mine boss. In a case reported by the domestic Chinese media on 26 December, a group of criminals murdered at least 17 young men in coal mines across the country before demanding compensation from their bosses.

China Daily year-end lists highlight the role of workers in 2009

As the year 2009 and this decade (the “aughts”?) comes to an end, various “best of” lists are floating around on the Internet, and the China Daily has compiled an interesting series of lists on its website. Besides being a year that saw many cultural and scholarly giants pass away, 2009 will probably also be remembered as a year in which workers and common netizens started to use proactive and exceptional means to defend their rights – a trend CLB noted in our report- the Workers' Movement in China (2007-2008). And 2009 will probably also be remember as a year in which various local governments had their credibility challenged like never before.

Festive cheer for migrant workers?

New announcements from the State Council and the Shanghai government seem to offer some measure of cheer for migrant workers in the New Year, however, as with all government pronouncements, the devil will be in the implementation of the detail.

The best way to get sued in China

A few days ago Dan Harris of the China Law Blog confirmed a trend that we at CLB and others have noticed recently, namely that the non-payment of overtime is becoming the biggest single cause of labour-related lawsuits and arbitration cases in China. The problem has become particularly severe as the economy picks up again and enterprises, many of whom sacked vast numbers of workers last year, pressure their remaining employees to work long hours in order to fulfill new contracts.

Global Voices article reports on pneumoconiosis coverage in Chinese media

Pneumoconiosis, and other lung diseases, have long been one of the most deadly hazards affecting the Chinese workforce. However, in recent months the Chinese media has come to life and reported on a series of high-profile weiquan (rights defense) actions taken by pneumoconiosis sufferers in Shenzhen and elsewhere. These media reports have been succinctly summarized in an article at Global Voices by Don Weinland.

Enterprise threatens to take its business elsewhere after losing labour rights lawsuit in Shenzhen

One of Shenzhen’s largest manufacturers has threatened not to hire any new workers in the city after a court ordered it to pay 800,000 yuan in compensation for nonpayment of statutory overtime and social insurance contributions for more than one hundred workers.

Time Magazine honours the Chinese Worker

In a surprising but welcome move, Time Magazine has included “the Chinese worker” in its final list of nominees for Person of the Year 2009. Hopefully, the nomination will spur the international community to look more closely, not only at the contribution China’s workers have made but also at the problems they face on a day to day basis.

The deadly 43 minutes: Southern Weekend reveals causes of the Hegang disaster

For the family members of the recent Hegang coal mining accident that took the lives of 108 people in a gas explosion, one of the most tragic facts that will most likely haunt them forever is why so many workers ended up dying when dangerous levels of gas were identified nearly 43 minutes before the first explosion took place? Did the miners die in vain? What factors contributed to such a senseless tragedy that should have and could have been avoided? The influential newspaper Southern Weekend (南方周末), in an investigative research piece, has determined that the vast majority of workers at the Xinxing mine did not receive any warning about the exceedingly dangerous levels of gas despite that fact that the ground level headquarters received reports, and the mine management did not install a sufficient amount of emergency-use telephones that could have informed workers about the dangerous levels of gas.

A new tool in the fight to end forced labour: Free2Work

Recently I came across an interesting website that may have great potential in fighting child slavery, forced labour, and other appalling labour conditions: Free2Work. The International Labor Rights Forum, the Not For Sale Campaign, and Humanity United have teamed up to create this new platform that provides “a singular location that streamlines and simplifies the process for consumers on the topic of most concern to its audience, modern-day slavery”.

Tragedy sparks debate on the fate of migrant children in China

The explosion at an illegal firecracker factory in Guangxi two weeks ago that left two primary school children dead and 11 others badly injured has provoked not only anger and sympathy for the victims but a wide-ranging discussion in the Chinese blogosphere about the problems of left-behind children and the inequities of the household registration system.


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