Most demands are over unpaid wages, under-paid wages or poor work conditions, due to employers breaching the law. Workers take to the streets only when management and local authorities ignore their grievances. They block roads, forcing authorities to pay attention. In the first quarter of 2015, 11 large factory strikes in Guangdong escalated into violence between workers and police, estimates one Hong Kong NGO.
Unlike workers in other Asian countries such as Cambodia, Indonesia and Bangladesh, Chinese workers had not challenged government policies – targeting the government for an increase in the legal minimum wage or asking to eliminate China’s household registration system that consigns migrant workers to temporary residence in cities and denies them access to public services. They had not demanded a right to set up alternatives to inactive branches of China’s one official trade union run by the government, which normally lets factory managers select union representatives.