Friday, October 24, 2003

Maybe They Need Some Real Unions

Things are bad in Chinese workplaces:
BEIJING, Oct. 23 — New work safety rules and beefed-up enforcement have failed to reduce the death toll in China's mines and factories so far this year, and a government official acknowledged that the problem "has not been completely addressed."

Accidents took the lives of 11,449 workers through September, an increase of 9 percent over the corresponding period a year earlier, according to national data released Thursday. The official tally shows the number of deaths dropping slightly in notorious coal mines, but rising in other mines and jumping by 19 percent at factories and construction sites.

The undiminished carnage reflects the relatively low priority that China's government puts on safety. There is heavy emphasis on raising production, and workers are forbidden to form independent unions.

Although China's new leaders have promised to overhaul the way they manage the economy to better reflect the needs of workers and peasants, top leaders rarely speak about the enormous numbers of casualties in a wide variety of industries. They have continued to repress workers who voice concerns about poor labor conditions as potential threats to the Communist Party's hold on power.
What's interesting is the important role that strong, independent unions are assumed to have in assuring safer working China.

In this country one rarely sees the link made between strong unions and safer working conditions.