MAC/20: Mines and Communities

China Update

Published by MAC on 2007-06-29


China update

29th June 2007

Partly sparked by widespread revulsion at last month's revelations of appalling abuses in the brick kiln industry, the Chinese regime has introduced a new labour law. Ostensibly this will protect the rights of sub-contracted workers and enhances the capacity of workers to negotiate employer agreements.

However, the legislation only seeks to enforce the right to individual contracts (a measure which has been vigorously opposed by trade unionists in Australia); and in no way does it reduce the power of the communist party's monopoly union. Nor is it clear that it will be rigorously enforced.

As the Hong Kong-based China Labour Bulletin comments:

"Everyday, there are large scale labour protests in towns and cities across China, and it is difficult to see how the new Labour Contract Law can help reduce such protests unless it is rigorously enforced and workers are given the genuine right to collective bargaining."

A mine owner has been jailed for life, accused of arranging the assassination of a journalist investigating illegal coal mines in Shanxi province. However, as a recent report by another investigator reveals, local officials continue to collude with mine managers in operating such mines, in what is officially the most polluted place in the entire country.

In our regular round-up of what Chinese companies are doing abroad, we report on yet more takeovers of UK-listed mining companies, including a major acquisition by Zijin Mining.

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