Battered by the pandemic and intense competition between rival companies, China’s express delivery workers are bracing for more pain with the annual online shopping bonanza of Singles Day (双11) just around the corner on 11 November.
Singles Day is an unofficial holiday in China, first used in the early 2010s by tech giant Alibaba to boost online sales. It has since grown into the world’s largest shopping event, putting tremendous pressure on workers to deliver a huge number of packages in a very short period of time.
As we pointed out on our website last month, delivery workers in China have already staged numerous protests this year, primarily over branch closures and wage arrears. They urgently need the official trade union to fulfil its promise to make express delivery one of the eight major sectors for organizing and rights protection.
Of course, it is not just in China where delivery workers are under pressure. Alibaba has opened a new logistics hub in Liege, Belgium, and CLB will soon publish an investigation into labour protections there. And a new CLB series begins with the story of workers in India’s transport and delivery sectors organizing across ten cities under pandemic conditions.
Last month, China announced the formation of a massive new conglomerate in the coal heartland of Shanxi. Five major state-owned enterprises merged into a new entity, Jinneng Holdings, which is expected to enhance productivity and competitiveness in the industry while reducing overcapacity.
For workers, however, the move could lead to more layoffs as the industry continues to push mechanisation and automation. At the same time, the risk of accidents remains ever present. On 20 October, for example, four miners died and another was seriously injured in an explosion at a mine operated by the Lu’an Mining Group, one of the five companies that will be merged to form Jinneng Holdings. This was just one of the 51 coal mine accidents recorded on CLB’s Work Accident Map so far this year.
China’s official trade union has so far done little to help miners or delivery workers. However, the ACFTU is very proud of its role in the nation’s poverty alleviation campaign, one of the signature policies of paramount leader Xi Jinping. The Workers Daily on 29 September claimed that “the ACFTU has submitted a shining report card that shows that all of its poverty alleviation tasks have been completed on time.”
Although poverty alleviation is an important task in China, CLB’s investigations this year have shown that by focusing on this particular campaign, the union has too often neglected its core mission and left workers vulnerable to labour rights abuses and work safety hazards. With the poverty alleviation projects set to be completed at the end of this year, we urge the union to refocus its activities on serving its members in the workplace.