China - Worker representatives arrested

Three worker representatives at a Volkswagen plant in the northeast city of Changchun were detained by police on 26 May 2017 accused of «assembling a crowd to disturb social order».
The arrests related to a demonstration by agency workers, held in conjunction with the annual Changchun Marathon on 21 May, to press for their demands for equal pay. Two of the worker representatives, Wang Shuai and Ai Zhenyu, were released pending trial after seven days in detention. Fu Tianbo remained in custody.

The FAW-Volkswagen plant in Changchun employs more than 3,000 workers on “temporary” contracts. Many of them have been working there for more than ten years, receiving only about half of the wage and none of the benefits of full-time workers. In November 2016 they began to organise to seek equal treatment with permanent staff in accordance with Chinese law and international standards. They tried submitting their case to the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU), the labour arbitration committee and to court, to no avail. Letters to the VW headquarters in Germany failed to produce any result.

A protest in February at the district labour arbitration committee led to an intensification of police surveillance along with an increased pressure from management on worker representatives. Representatives reported that management forced them to change jobs or increase their workload. Many workers reported being contacted by police by phone and put under surveillance.

A request to organise a May Day demonstration was refused, and finally the workers organised the 21 May protest, which led to the arrests. Fu Tianbo has remained in custody awaiting trial, and his family have faced harassment.

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