Shanghai truckers strike highlights lack of communication channels

Hundreds of truck drivers staged protests in Shanghai’s port district this week, leading to clashes with the police and several arrests. The drivers, mostly independent operators from outside the city demanded an increase in their flat-fee haulage payment to offset rising fuel costs.

The Wall Street Journal quoted one driver as saying costs had increased to the point where he could only take home 200 yuan from the daily haulage rate of 1,200 yuan. The 1,200 yuan rate paid by the logistics companies has not changed in a decade, he said, while the cost of diesel, port fees, road tolls and daily living costs have all shot up.

The strike has proved difficult to resolve because the drivers lack effective representation and there are no established channels of communications between the drivers, the logistics companies and the government. Striking truckers complained that the government was ignoring their protest, and vowed to continue until their demands were met.

Without any effective trade union representation, the truckers organised the strike themselves through word of month, although the action was far from unified and it seems many drivers were prepared to keep working.

Police reportedly told strikers gathered near a road junction Friday that talks were underway and an offer would be forthcoming on Monday. And the Shanghai government has shown its willingness to make small concessions to drivers in other sectors this week. The government announced Thursday that from 1 May the monthly fees taxi drivers have to pay their cab company will be reduced from 8,500 yuan to 8,200 yuan.

Strikes by taxi drivers are commonplace in China and are usually ignited by the high vehicle rental fees charged to drivers by cab companies. When fuel costs increase, drivers’ incomes decrease, and strike action becomes a real possibility.

Although widely reported in the international media, the Shanghai truck drivers’ strike has not been reported in the mainland Chinese media since posts began to circulate on the internet on 21 April.
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