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Workers' Voices

Retired Yunnan teachers fight for equal pension treatment

[Broadcast on 10 May 2006]

On 10 May, more than 700 former teachers of a kindergarten of a state-owned enterprise staged a peaceful sit-in in front of the provincial government offices, demanding the government award them pension payments on the same scale that used for retired teachers from the primary and secondary schools as well as retired civil servants, in accordance with the Teachers' Law. On the afternoon of 10 May, one of the retired teachers, speaking from the demonstration, described the situation.

Retired teacher: There is still no conclusion.

Han Dongfang: Are you all still in front of the government office building?

Retired teacher: We're still here. We all gathered here at 8:00 this morning.

Han: Hasn't anyone from government spoken to you?

Retired teacher: No. No one has come out to talk. Five of our representatives went in to talk. They went in and then came out. They were chased out.

Han: How many teachers are there altogether at the door?

Retired teacher: There're more than 700.

Han: Are they all just sitting there, or are they doing anything else?

Retired teacher: They are all sitting in front of the main door. In the beginning, we were all by the side of the road, but because they won't meet with us, we have moved to sit in front of the main door. Now there are someone trying to disperse the demonstrators because there are a lot of people going to work and there are a lot of onlookers.

Han: So one can't go in and out of the main door of the government building?

Retired teacher: That's right. They're all retirees and the oldest one participating today is nearly 80 years old.

She said that the teachers' struggle had already been going on for two years.

Retired teacher: The central government's Document No. 9 was issued the day before yesterday. The Teachers' Law was originally to include all teachers employed by state-owned enterprises, kindergarten teachers, vocational and technical teachers. The primary and secondary teachers' situation has been resolved. Only that of the kindergarten and vocational and technical teachers remains to be solved. Right now, as regards the whole group, there are about 3,000 kindergarten teachers. There are also about 3,000 vocational and technical teachers. They have sent their representatives here today. If they all came, that would be really something. The Teachers' Law originally included kindergarten teachers and vocational and technical teachers, but then the Yunnan provincial government issued Statement No. 88 which excluded kindergarten teachers and vocational and technical teachers.

Han: If Document No. 9 is implemented across the board, how much do you expect your monthly wages [payments] would rise from the current 900 yuan?

Retired teacher: It should be raised to 1,500 yuan [a month].

Han: How long have you been working on this?

Retired teacher: We have been working on this for two years already. This is the largest demonstration we have staged. We are now asking that we are given a clear answer on the principle employed here. What we are asking is does the law take precedence or Statement 88?

An official in the Petition Office of the provincial government who would not give his name, at first denied that there was a sit-in of retired teachers in front of the provincial government building. Later, he said that government regulations dictated that no interviews should be given to the media regarding collective petitions submitted to government.

Petition Office:  What, there is no such thing going on here!

Han: There's nothing going on?

Petition Office: There's nothing going on. There was something on Monday, but nothing now.

Han: It happened on Monday?

Petition Office: Yes.

Han: What answer did you give them?

Petition Office: I can't talk to you about it.

Han: Are their demands reasonable and within the law?

Petition Office: I can't talk about this with you.

Han: On what basis could you talk about it?

Petition Office: When a collective petition has been submitted, we can't not take or give interviews to the media.

Han: What?

Petition Office:  When a collective petition has been submitted, we can't not take or give interviews to the media. That is the Yunnan provincial government media rule.

Han: That is the Yunnan provincial government media rule?

Petition Office: Right, right. 

Han: Why do you do that?

Petition Office: That is the regulation of the Propaganda and Publicity Department.

Mr Wong, chairman of the education union of Yunnan province, said that for an interview, one must first make contact with the government department handling the matter.

Education union: What kind of answer can my team give to the media?

Han: Has your provincial teachers union ever represented these teachers, ever raised their demands?

Education union:  We are not accepting any media interviews at this time.

Han: Has the teachers' union ever assisted these teachers in fighting for their rights?

Education union: I told you we are not accepting any media interviews at this time.

Another retired teacher said that retired kindergarten teachers' groups from every former state-owned enterprise throughout the province had sent representatives to take part in this peaceful sit-in. She said that if the Teachers' Law were implemented, she would receive an additional 300-400 yuan a month.

Retired teacher: We are all retired kindergarten and vocational and technical teachers. I was a kindergarten teacher. I worked in the education field for more than 30 years.

Han: How much do you receive each month now?

Retired teacher: 600-700 yuan.

Han: If Document No. 9 were to be implemented…

Retired teacher: If Document No 9 were implemented, that would mean an additional 300-400 yuan. Teachers from all over the province have come now.

An official in the Office of Education Department of the Yunnan Provincial Government stated in an interview that the department was just preparing to send someone to the teachers' sit-in. He said it wasn't that the government wasn't concerned, but he added that he could not say the probability of solving the matter was very high.

Provincial Education Department: We are just assigning someone to go down there.

Han: They have been submitting petitions on this issue for more than two years. Why hasn't this been resolved yet?

Provincial Education Department: The central government's policy on this has not been out for even two years. How can they have been petitioning for two years?

Han: When was the central government's Document No. 9 issued?

Provincial Education Department: Only those doing personnel work would know the details

Han: It seems that it came out in early 2004, didn't it?

Provincial Education Department:  After the central government issues it, the local [government] must add accompanying articles.

Han: They have been submitting petitions for such a long time. Why is it that you haven't settled this yet?

Provincial Education Department:  At this time, we can't give you a clear answer. It is not that the government isn't concerned. This is a big country and the issues are complicate. One document can solve all the problems? That obviously is impossible.

Han: In the end, what is the probability that you are going to solve this problem?

Provincial Education Department:  I'm afraid I can't say.