Gloria Plaza Hotel Strike in Beijing

01:00 May 27 2010 Gloria Plaza Hotel Beijing China

From the Globe and Mail:

As an unprecedented wave of strikes rolled across China this month – shutting car plants and electronics component makers – the staff at the Gloria Plaza Hotel in Beijing decided they, too, had had enough.

The four-star Gloria Plaza, which had done a thriving trade during the 2008 Olympic Games, unexpectedly announced it was shutting its doors for extensive renovations at the end of May, putting 400 people out of work – almost all of them poor migrants from the countryside. The hotel’s management said it would pay the minimum severance package required by law. But the staff decided they wanted more

After years of donning smiles for guests who stayed in luxury suites while staff slept 20 to a room in a building over the parking garage, Gloria Plaza workers drew up placards reading “We Want Fairness” and “We Demand a Reasonable Offer.” Then they marched to the office of the company that owns the hotel and, when that didn’t work, they did it again, and again. Eventually, their protests brought the concession they were demanding: a severance payment of up to several thousand yuan each, depending on length of service.

“The workers had not been treated fairly. We worked for a long time for such small payment. We needed to take action,” said a 22-year-old electrician from Hebei province who would give only his family name, Chang. Though the hotel is now closed, Mr. Chang was still living in the squalid Gloria Plaza dorm – which reeks of urine and uncollected garbage – while he searched for another job. The hotel workers typically earned between 1,000 yuan ($155) to 1,800 yuan a month.

The labour action at the Gloria Plaza went almost unnoticed amid a series of strikes that have forced the likes of auto giants Honda, Toyota and Nissan to stop production at factories in China until they met worker demands. But the protests by the receptionists, bellmen, electricians and cleaners at the Gloria Plaza were motivated by the same discontent that led those working assembly lines in the south of the country to walk off the job: a sense among China’s tens of millions of low-wage workers that the time has come for them to share in China’s economic success.


“So far, we’re not seeing co-ordinated action, just opportunistic strikes and a knock-on effect where one strike leads to another which leads to another,” said Geoffrey Crothall, spokesman for the Hong Kong-based China Labour Bulletin. “In the past, strike action tended to be chaotic and haphazard. No one really knew what was going on. Now we’re seeing workers demanding to elect their own representatives. That’s significant.”

At the Gloria Plaza, where a sense of accomplishment lingers among the former staff over what they their protests achieved, workers say they simply got tired of being taken advantage of.

“It’s not convenient to live like this,” said Helen Liu, a 22-year-old bartender from northeastern Shandong province, casting her eyes around the mosquito-infested workers’ dormitory behind the hotel. Her bed in one of the female sleeping areas was flush against her neighbour’s, and two other workers slept directly above them. There was no place for privacy, and only a tiny locker for the personal belongings of each of the 16 women who shared the space. “If factories and businesses were treating their workers well, this would not be happening,” she said.
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