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Labor NGOs in Guangdong Province

The last two CLNT postings were related to labor NGOs in Guangdong province. The first one was on how, with the assistance of these grassroots NGOs, workers sometimes are able to receive a large amount of unpaid wages or compensation for occupational injuries; the second article was on a vicious physical attack against the head of one of these NGOs. In this issue we have chosen two articles that provide a more detailed background on these NGOs to enable readers to gain a better grasp of what is happening in the province that contains the most export-oriented industry. We believe that the labor movement in Guangdong province has entered a new stage and is worth our close attention.

The two articles are taken from two popular Chinese magazines. The first was carried in South Wind Window (Nanfeng Chuang). It is about how the labor NGOs came to exist, how some of them worked with local governments and the official trade unions, how some were rejected, and how some had to turn to foreign funders to support their “rights protection” activities. The second article is from Outlook (Liaowang) and describes in greater detail how these labor NGOs handle legal cases on behalf of workers and the reactions of various local government bureaucracies towards them.

After more than a decade of helping migrant workers, who according to one of these articles number some 17 million today, the impact of the NGOs’ work is being felt: by the workers, by foreign investors (mainly Asian), and by the local governments. Workers’ consciousness has been raised, and these NGOs have to be contended with. While previously businesses and local governments and local trade unions were willing to tolerate their presence, now that their service has become so effective as to create a negative impact on the “investment climate” the NGOs have to be dealt with in a different way. The two articles here show that the local government bureaucracies are in disagreement about what to do. Pro-business sectors of the bureaucracies have begun curtailing the legal activities of the NGOs, whereas, according to the Liaowang article, the Guangdong Provincial General Federation of Trade Unions disapproves of these suppressive measures for fear this will only exacerbate antagonistic labor relations. Instead it is in the midst of trying to incorporate the labor NGOs under its wing.

According to a personal blog run by Zhan Chuanhai, one of the labor reporters of Southern Labor News (Nanfang Gongbao), the Shenzhen City General Federation of Trade Unions called a meeting of more than ten NGOs in October 2007 and offered them the option of working under local governments on condition that they sever contacts with foreigners and stop receiving foreign funding. We have information that a trade union official paid a courtesy visit to the hospital room of Huang Qingnan, the staff member of the NGO Dagongzhe who was stabbed, and that the NGO has subsequently met with the union. At this stage it is unclear what may happen.

One development is clear – the labor NGOs in Guangdong province now have attained a reputation and standing important enough that the official trade union seeks to discuss with them their future. Undoubtedly, this relationship is very fragile.

PDF version of the introduction:
CLNT_NGOs_INTRO.pdf[95.70]

Here are the two translated articles

1) “China Labor NGOs
CLNT_NGOs_SouthChina.pdf[133.25KB]
全球化背景下的劳工自救
http://news.sina.com.cn/c/2007-11-15/122014311592.shtml

2)”‘Citizen agents’ offer legal aid
CLNT_citizens_agents.pdf[131.30KB]
“公民代理人”的是是非非
http://news.xinhuanet.com/legal/2007-10/30/content_6973228.htm

Other related Chinese articles
从民工中来 到民工中去 — 华南劳工NGO脸谱扫描
http://www.szwlg.org/dispart.asp?id=1207

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