In January dozens of nurses in Chongqing went on strike over low pay and poor working conditions. Strikes have been ongoing over the last six months as part of a dispute between low-paid healthcare workers and hospital management regimes.
Fuelling the dispute is a vast pay gap in China’s public hospitals between nurses employed on short-term temporary contracts and better-paid permanent staff. Earlier in January over 100 nurses walked off the job in Huaibei, calling for equal pay for equal work.
There is no fighting union for healthcare workers in China. Although some unions exist in name, they are frequently run by hospital management themselves or are tools of the ruling Communist Party. The nurses have had no alternative other than to organise themselves and collectively struggle for improved wages and working conditions.
By Jeremy Trott