Nearly ten thousand employees of the Chengdu Steel & Vanadium Company (CSVC) went on strike Jan. 4. Roughly 5,000 employees then marched from the factory to the entrance of Chengdu-Mianyang Expressway where they were stopped by over 1,000 policemen, according to reports.
A few hours later the police began to disperse the crowd with force and used pepper spray on the crowd.
Three employees were injured and five arrested.
The company is located in Qingbaijiang District in Chengdu city, the capital of Sichuan Province.
On Dec. 30, 2,000 employees from the Sichuan Chemical Engineering Group Company (CEGC) located in the same area as CSVC successfully had their demands met by striking and blocking traffic. Their monthly salary and annual bonus were raised.
Employees from CSVC decided to follow the same path and launched a large strike.
Zhang, one of the employees, told The Epoch Times that they used to be afraid of getting into trouble, but, inspired by land rights protest in Wukan, Guangdong, and the success of the strikers at CEGC, they decided to stand up for themselves.
Authorities mobilized over 1,000 armed riot police to block the protesters at the Chengdu-Mianyang Expressway. The standoff between protesters and the police paralyzed traffic.
When local officials and a representative from the company’s work unit arrived they asked the employees to leave and promised to come up with a plan to resolve the salary issue.
The employees demanded that the company representative promise a pay raise on the spot before they would leave but this was denied.
After a few hours of standoff, the police began to disperse the protesters by force.
According to one of the employees, Yuan, the police used pepper spray on them and injured three and arrested five. The employees asked the company representative to release the five who were arrested and to have the general manager meet with them. The representative promised to have the police release the arrestees but the general manager refused to see the protesters.
Yuan also said that after the police dispelled the protesters on Jan. 4, about 1,000 of them returned to the factory and gathered at the front entrance. The factory did not allow anyone to enter.
The employees donated over $1500 in cash to a strike fund and used some of the money to buy food and tents so that they could continue the strike.
Some of the employees complained that public servants in government organizations receive pay raises every year which raises the country’s overall consumer demand. However, wages of company employees are relatively low and seriously lag behind expenses.
Ms. Zhang, another worker, said that the average monthly salary of an employee is $190, so money is tight. Some employees had to get a second job such as being a security guard or taxiing passengers on tricycles.
Some female employees even work in night clubs so that they could make ends meet.
“The rights protest in Wukan Village has established a trend. The CEGC employees have successfully demanded their rights as well. Employees at CSVC cannot stay quiet anymore,” said Zhang.
CSVC is a subsidiary company of Pangang Group Steel Vanadium & Titanium Co. It produces metal bars, rods, and seamless steel pipes and has over 14,000 employees.