Lecture Series 2018/19

Taming Labour: Workers’ struggles, workplace unionism and collective bargaining on a Chinese waterfront

Dr Tim Pringle, Editor of The China Quarterly, and Senior Lecturer of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, UK
Date: Friday, 9 November 2018
Time: 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm
Venue: G7619, 7/F, Green Zone, Yeung Kin Man Academic Building, City University of Hong Kong (Please use Lift 3)
Language: English

Is worker representation in China possible? Do the rigid prohibitions against trade union organising outside of the Party-led All-China Federation of Trade Unions exclude the possibility of effective union representation? This seminar examines the case of the Yantian International Container Terminal (YICT) to consider under what conditions unions can provide effective workplace representation in China. I will argue that the YICT union developed a system of annual collective bargaining that tamed the power of militant dockworkers on the one hand and improved pay and conditions on the other. This outcome required an effective enterprise-level trade union that was nevertheless able to influence and manage members’ somewhat ambiguous acceptance of its role. Ultimately, workers’ interests were partially represented and their acquisition of associational power - in the form of trade unions - increased.