After a strike wave in the summer of 2010, workers won big wage increases in the coastal areas of Guangdong and Shanghai, the two industrial export centers of China. These struggles forced provincial governments to raise the minimum wage for all workers.
Since then many companies have relocated to the inland provinces. “The cost of labor has risen to such a level that it’s no longer cost-effective to be on the eastern coast, so you’d have to be moving west as much as you can,” Francois de Yrigoyen from ManpowerGroup China told Reuters.
But two recent strikes by workers in the Sichuan province show that the extension of industrial development is bringing the extension of the proletariat and their struggles against exploitation.
On Jan. 4 workers at Chengdu Steel walked off the job protesting low wages. Some 2,000 participated, according to China Labor Watch. Workers demanded a raise from 1,500 yuan ($237) a month to 2,000 ($315). Management has offered a 300 yuan increase, but the workers don’t think that’s enough.
Chengdu Steel is an important subsidiary of Pangang Group Steel and Vanadium Co., with 14,000 employees and exports to more than 50 countries around the world.
The steelworkers were encouraged by a victory won a few days earlier at the Sichuan Chemical Industry Factory. After a strike bosses agreed to increase the monthly wage by 400 yuan and to pay a year-end bonus of 3,000 yuan.
As of Jan. 1 the government in Sichuan raised the minimum wage by 23 percent, from 800 to 1,050 yuan.
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