Shenzhen bus strike erupts into violence – highlights need for collective bargaining

Several bus drivers and conductors were injured in a clash with police on 10 January after more than 100 workers staged a strike over wages outside a bus depot in suburban Shenzhen.

The incident was covered in depth by Shenzhen Satellite Television News journalists who interviewed the injured workers in hospital and discussed their wage demands with other protestors.

The strike began when conductors on the Nos. 337 and 338 bus routes in Shenzhen’s Bao’an district demanded talks with management over wage levels. Management refused and instead called the police. When the police, including anti-riot forces, attempted to break up the demonstration blocking the entrance to the bus depot, a scuffle broke out and several workers were injured.

The workers said the wages dispute arose after the bus depot was taken over by another company. The new system of wage calculation was completely incomprehensible, they said. “Nobody knows how their individual wage is calculated. If you do more shifts it is like that, fewer shifts it is the same. If they give us 1,000 yuan, we have to accept 1,000. If they give us 2,000 yuan we get 2,000,” one conductor explained.

The workers said they were all dissatisfied with the new arrangements but management had always refused to discuss the issue, leaving them no option but to go on strike. “Each time before we get paid we want a meeting. They let us meet but they don’t let us speak. They pound the table and prevent us from talking. It is always like that,” another worker said.

The attitude of management towards the reasonable demands of the employees for a clarification of their wage structure, perfectly illustrates the need for Shenzhen’s proposed Regulations on Collective Consultations (深圳经济特区集体协商条例) to go into effect as soon as possible. The regulations will hopefully establish a workable mechanism by which wage disputes can be resolved through mutual negotiation, without the need for strike action or violence. It is thought the regulations will be approved by the Shenzhen government this month.
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