Protests by miners and iron and steel workers in China: September 2015 – August 2016
The turning point for government officials may have been the massive and highly publicised protest by thousands of coal miners in the north-eastern city Shuangyashan, which coincided with China’s National People’s Congress in March, and made very apparent the dangers of failing to pay workers on time and laying off workers without proper compensation.
Another factor is that commodity prices have started to rebound this year making some mines and iron and steel plants that were slated for closure more economically viable. Local government clearly don’t want to cut capacity only to find that officials in the neighbouring province have not followed suit and are now better placed to take advantage of higher prices.
It is also important to note that China’s coal industry,, during which time mass protests by miners over lay-offs and wage arrears have become increasingly commonplace, reaching a peak of 37 strikes and protests in January 2016, just prior to the Chinese New Year.
It is possible that the most intense phase of unrest in the coal industry is already over but if higher prices fail to improve conditions for the remaining workforce, there will almost certainly be renewed protests over wage arrears etc. in the run up to next year’s Chinese New Year.