Retired Workers Protest Against Suizhou Tieshu Textile Co. in Suizhou, Hubei

21:05 Jan 2 2003 Suizhou, Zengdu District, Suizhou City, Hubei, China

[Note: There seem to be different accounts regarding police violence in this incident. This is a long-running dispute--see follow-up coverage from 2010.]

From AFP via Boxun:

香港一个劳工权利团体披露中国中部湖北省约有一千多名退休纺织工人堵住一条铁路抗议他们公司准备削减退休工人的生活补贴金。据「中国劳工公报CLB ) 」组织报导这次示威元月二日发生在湖北省隋州市的武汉至襄樊铁路线上。

报导说抗议工人堵塞铁路交通达两个半小时之久表达他们对铁树纺织公司译音 ) 的愤怒因为这家公司在申请破产后准备取消退休工人生活补助金。









From CLB:

Since January 2003, retired workers have been protesting against proposed cuts to their pension subsidies at the Suizhou Tieshu Textile Group. Four workers were detained on 23 April; two of them have since been released but Gong Qingshan, a 72 year old retiree and Cui Dezhi, a 52 year old retiree both remain in detention. A further two people were detained on 28 April, after some 600 workers marched to the Suizhou City Government offices in protest at the detentions and to ask again for an answer to their demands. CLB urges the Chinese authorities to immediately release all four workers who were detained solely for their involvement in peaceful and legitimate demonstrations.

Also from CLB:

Starting 12 March, despite heavy rain and cold conditions, groups of retired workers from the Tieshu Textile Group have managed to block the entrance to the factory. According to security staff at the factory all production has now stopped.

From 12 March onwards, every day some 20 to 30 retired workers are taking turns sitting outside the Tieshu Textile factory entrance blocking its access. Armed only with banners, the retired workers are braving the rain to remain in front of the entrance from 6:00 AM in the morning until 1:00 AM the following day. Banners strung across the factory gates say "Protest Against Corruption" and "Out with the Woodworm" [woodworm is a popular Chinese metaphor for corruption]. According to an eyewitness contacted by CLB, at the peak of the picketing, over 300 workers were gathered outside the factory entrance.

The factory, which reportedly employees about 7,000 people and has over 3,000 retired workers, is on the brink of bankruptcy. It has been ordered to declare itself bankrupt by the government and is currently working out bankruptcy and layoff procedures.

The retired workers have been protesting about the loss of their pensions and about extensive corruption since 2 January 2003 when they stopped traffic for about 2 and a half hours on the local rail line;

* One of the retired workers principal complaints is that they have not been paid any pension funds from the factory despite an earlier agreement that all retired workers would receive about half their pension from government funds and the remaining one third or half from factory pension funds.

*Workers are also calling on the government to investigate their allegations of corruption by officials at the factory which, they believe, has directly led to its imminent bankruptcy.

There are more than 2000 retirees at the factory who are affected by the pension cuts -- most of the workers currently employed by the factory have elderly relatives affected by this crisis. One worker told CLB that in his household, where both his parents are retirees from the factory, the family will lose 400-500 Yuan each month-- about one third of its monthly income.

CLB learned from a worker at the factory that although the retired workers have been asking for a renewed dialogue with the factory management there has not been any response from the management since the protests resumed on 12 March.

China Labour Bulletin spoke with a staff member at the factory trade union who told us despite the above-mentioned confirmation by the factory's security section - that the protests were a "rumour". Yesterday, on 13 March, Mr. Ni, the president of the factory trade union, again told CLB that the events described above "did not happen". When CLB informed him that workers and others had described in detail the events of the past 3 days, the president declined to comment.

When we reminded him that the trade union was, according to Chinese law, there to represent the workers, the president said: "no comment".

CLB also contacted the Suizhou City branch of the ACFTU, where an official informed us that there had been a visit to the factory on or around 2 February by officials from the Hubei Provincial ACFTU, but up until now they had not received any information about the visit or follow up. CLB subsequently interviewed a senior official at the local ACFTU branch. (See here for the transcript. )

In addition to the dire financial straits of the retired workers, those currently employed at the factory face similar problems. Many of the current workers and those recently retired (from about 1999 onwards) were forced, through the reform of the factory, to buy shares in their workplace - shares which they will now lose.

The factory is currently calculating how much compensation they will provide to each worker once the bankruptcy is declared. However, it is unlikely that this compensation will be adequate.

Following the mass protests in January 2003, the local Public Security Bureau declared the workers actions to be "illegal" and a "serious disruption of public order". They asked for the leaders of the protests to turn themselves in and at the same time began a door to door man-hunt within the factory housing complex for the alleged leaders. It is not known if anyone has been detained for their part in the protest. The renewal of the Tieshu workers protests reveals both the seriousness of the situation and the strength of the workers demands.

Also from CLB:

China Labour Bulletin was reliably informed today that a retired worker who wrote the protest banners and poems displayed by former employees of the Tieshu Textile Group, in Suizhou City, Hubei Province, during their collective demonstration outside the factory gate last week has now been secretly arrested.

(For further information on the Tieshu protest action, see 14 March 2003 Action Express at Hubei Workers from Tieshu Group Launch New Protests against Pension Reductions - conversations with workers and officials )

According to CLB’s source, prior to his retirement the detained activist worked as an official in the factory’s official trade union branch (ACFTU.) The detainee, whose name is not known, was reportedly seized at his home by plainclothes police officers one or two days ago at around midnight. He is believed to be still held in police custody.

This is the second detention carried out by police this week in Suizhou in connection with the Tieshu textile workers’ protest. At around 10.00 am on the morning of 19 March, a large group of plainclothes police arrived at the factory gates in an unmarked vehicle and forcibly detained another worker (identity also unknown), despite the vehement opposition of around 100 retired worker demonstrators from the factory who surged forward in an attempt to protect the man. In that incident, the detainee was released by the police about an hour later.

The poems which, along with the banners strewn across the factory gates, led to the unknown man’s secret detention included the following:

Three strange things are happening in Suizhou:
On politics, officials say whatever they like;
Tieshu factory goes bankrupt without reason;
And the bells of feudalism ring out anew.

Power has become the plaything of officials,
Though we have the truth all on our side.
When our very subsistence goes unprotected,
What fear have we of donning prison shackles?

It’s we who are the creditors here,
And we’re determined to stick up for our rights.
We don’t care how high up the debtors are:
Unpaid debts must be met!
Credibility: UP DOWN 0

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