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Transport workers welcome higher wages

By Chen Xin and Wu Yong (China Daily)

08:36, July 23, 2012

Liu Kai got up at 4:30 am on June 27 and left home 30 minutes later.

His routine was fixed.

He bought four steamed buns from a street vendor and drove the No 158 bus. He spent 10 yuan ($1.57) on a box lunch and went home for his supper at about 9 pm.

Liu drove a bus in Shenyang, the capital Liaoning province, during his approximately 14-hour workday. It was an ordinary day for him, much like all the others over the past 10 years.

Liu worked 27 days in June, all longer than 13 hours. He drove 2,860 kilometers, and earned 2,200 yuan ($345).

"My basic salary has not changed in the past 10 years and I can only save around 1,700 yuan, a sum that is barely enough to look after a family," Liu, 36, said. He is helping to raise a 5-year-old child.

Not surprisingly, Liu is delighted that his monthly salary will see a 15-percent rise this year thanks to a collective contract signed by representatives from the Shenyang public transport association and the Shenyang federation of trade unions.

This is the first collective contract in the country for public transport.

Liu is not the only one benefiting. The contract will ensure a minimum 15 percent wage rise for the 15,000 public transport workers in Shenyang this year.

It sets a minimum monthly salary of 1,600 yuan for drivers, 1,500 yuan for bus maintenance workers, 1,450 yuan for dispatchers, and 1,200 yuan for logistics staff members.

The contract also stipulates that each worker should enjoy at least one day off every week and a new collective contract will be negotiated once a year.

Zhan Jun, chairman of an industrial trade union in Shenyang, said he found that many of the 14 public bus companies in Shenyang, are run on a small profit and some have experienced difficulties.

"Slim profits mean slim wages for workers," he said.

Zhan said the 14 companies hired 1,640 drivers in 2011, but only 101 stayed.

"Workers in the industry earn around only 60 percent of other local workers," he said.

"And the divorce rate is high."

Workers in Shenyang had an average monthly income of 3,700 yuan in 2011, according to Zhan.

Zhang Jiuqi, general manager at Shenyang Shenxin Bus Company, said his company will spend 3.2 million yuan on wage rises this year.

"Although we are seeing little profit, we want to make our staff members stay by giving them higher salaries, or the company will not develop," he said.

Zhang said most public transport drivers were born in the 1960s and 1970s and he admitted that salaries were not high enough.

"Bus fares are determined by the government," he said.

Zhan Jun said Shenyang government subsidizes public transport to the tune of 80 million yuan a year.

China plans to introduce collective wage negotiations in 80 percent of corporate units that have set up trade unions by the end of 2013.

A total of 1.74 million enterprises in the country had carried out collective wage negotiations by the end of 2011, covering more than 100 million workers, according to the All-China Federation of Trade Unions.
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