Chinese coal workers protest unpaid wages

In what is being seen as a direct challenge to Beijing’s authority, thousands of Chinese coal miners have taken to the streets to protest against unpaid wages.

Reuters reports the mob of employees from the Shuangyashan Mine, owned by Longmay Group, have been protesting for three days. They held up banners saying: “We want to live, we want to eat” and “Lu Hao lies with his eyes open” referring to the governor of Heilongjiang province. The workers are angry that they are owed pay and that their wages have been cut from 1,000 yuan a month to 800 yuan.

The protests are a sign that slowing growth and unemployment is causing a problem for Beijing in one of its most important sectors – steelmaking. According to the Financial Times, the Chinese government has said it will set aside $15.4 billion to “resettle” coal and steel workers as part of a plan to cut unproductive capacity in both sectors.

The newspaper quotes statistics saying that for the first two months of 2016, Chinese production of thermal coal and steel both fell 16 percent, while coking coal output dropped 10 percent.

The rapid collapse in the prices of oil and coal, plus inefficiency and overmanning at state-owned enterprises have compounded problems in Heilongjiang province, Reuters said.

Image of a coal miner in Jin Hua Gong Mine, Datong, Shanxi, China, by Peter van den Bossche