Up To 2,000 Teachers Protest Against Unfair Work Practices in Suizhou, Hubei Province

From 4 November to 7 November 2003, hundreds of schoolteachers from community (minban) schools in the city of Suizhou, Hubei Province, gathered outside the city’s government offices to demand that the government upgrade them to the status of public school (gongban) teachers, as it had promised it would do between 1996-2000. At the height of the protest, the number of demonstrating teachers camped outside the municipal office had risen to more than 2,000. On 5 November, however, the local government sent several vanloads of officials, together with around 30 police officers, to forcibly remove demonstrators and escort them back to their homes. School headmasters from the various localities were instructed to hold the teachers’ representatives in strict isolation at each school. By 7 November, only 100 or so teachers were continuing the public protest demonstration.

Public school teachers in China are generally better paid than community schoolteachers and have guaranteed pension rights. Indeed, many of the Suizhou protestors are former public school teachers who were laid off, then re-hired by the local authorities as community teachers on much lower salaries. Several of the latter stated that they had been awarded only 200 yuan in compensation for each year of service as a public schoolteacher, and after being rehired as community teachers they were receiving only a quarter of the salary paid to public schoolteachers. Moreover, those laid off and rehired during 2002 had so far reportedly only been given around half of the compensation payments due to them. The demonstrating teachers also demanded that the pension benefits of retired community teachers should be increased to at least 350 Yuan.

At one stage in the protest, local government officials held a several-hour negotiation with the community teachers, but neither the municipal education bureau nor the municipal teachers’ trade union (ACFTU) were represented at these talks. (According to one Suizhou official, the deputy head of the education bureau also serves as chairman of the local teachers’ union.) An official from the city government’s Petitions and Complaints Office stated that the local authorities alone could not meet the teachers’ demands, since their problems were shared by community schoolteachers nationwide, and the central government as yet had no clear plan to resolve these issues. However, another Suizhou government official informed CLB that the reason why most of the community schoolteachers had not been upgraded to public schoolteacher status was that they had “violated the family planning scheme” (i.e. China’s one-child policy.)

Despite official provocations and the forced removal of protestors, the Suizhou community teachers have reportedly prepared a strategic plan of action to continue their protest, and they will continue to call upon the government to fulfill its original promises and commitments to them.


[Click here for interview transcripts on 7 November and 5 November ]

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