Gu, 45, has been a street cleaner in Shanghai for 19 years. Today she has risen from being a migrant worker to become team leader in a sanitation company. Asked about her income, she flashes a grin.
“I get 3,000 yuan a month,” she says. “It was only 400 yuan when I started this job.”
A survey shows that in 2009, around 64% of frontline sanitation workers in Shanghai were not satisfied with their income and about 20% left after less than two years.
As Labour Daily points out, street cleaning is one of the occupations a city cannot do without. While the average wage in the city is on the rise, salaries for sanitation workers remain on the low side.
The year 2011 was a turning point for sanitation workers in the city. The government and the Shanghai Trade Union Council issued a joint circular, calling on the city’s sanitation department to introduce collective bargaining.
The circular maintained that a normal wage growth mechanism should be established to ensure that pay levels were on a par with those of other workers in the city, and collective bargaining should be established.
With the system of collective bargaining now in place, sanitation workers in the city have seen a marked improvement in working conditions and income. In 2012, their average wage rose by 12% over the previous year.
“Besides my basic wages, my company provides seniority, meal and telephone allowances. I also get an additional 200 yuan every month for the position as a team leader,” Gu said.
In 2012, the trade union went a step further by setting up minimum wage standards for sanitation workers, allowing them to enjoy rest and recuperation every year and taking out insurance for dispatched workers.
To ensure these measures are implemented to the letter, the trade union council stepped up its organizing drive. So far, 96% of the city’s sanitation enterprises have set up trade unions.
Now more than half of the sanitation workers in the city are satisfied with their working conditions and income. As their satisfaction rises, few want to leave.