On October 12, at a local courier station of Yunda in Changsha, in central Hunan Province,
delivery workers first initiated a protest and refused to keep working, demanding payment of
wages in arrears for months. A delivery worker said that he has only received a total salary of
5,000 RMB since April. He estimated that for all employees at this local station, the total
amount of unpaid wages was more than 300,000 RMB (~$42,860). The local station had not
received any money from the area branch for months, and could not pay its delivery workers.
Hundreds of packages were piled up in the warehouse, including some containing produce that
was already rotting.
On October 19, in Fuzhou, in south-eastern Fujian Province, at least 10 workers at a local
courier station refused to work because they had not received their salaries for one or two
months. The manager only “conceded” that he could pay anyone who came back to work 3,000
RMB (~$430), or about two-thirds of a monthly wage. For those who did not return to work, he
refused to pay them anything.
These strikes started to attract public attention. As the hashtag “#express delivery workers on
strike” trended, more reports emerged on social media of similar work stoppages across multiple
provinces, including Shanghai, Jiangsu (southeast China), Henan (east-central China), Xinjiang
(northwest China), Shanxi (north China), Shaanxi (northwestern China). Many courier stations
that employed these striking delivery workers were bankrupt, and their owners had disappeared.
Workers were left in the dark as to where to direct their demands for unpaid wages.
Strikes of express delivery workers have been taking place since the beginning of this year.
According to the strike map of Hong Kong-based China Labour Bulletin, there have been at least
25 strike actions this year, involving workers from all the major express delivery companies.
However, this is only the tip of the iceberg. According to Service Worker Notes, a keyword search
for “express delivery workers on strike” on Baidu Tieba (a Reddit-type platform) returned more
than 100 separate threads in the past month and over a 1,000 more from the past year.
Chief responsibility for the wage arrears does not lie with the local courier station owners. All
the major express delivery companies have been engaged in a “price war” for years, seeking to
gain an advantage over their rivals by cutting their prices for package delivery.
For example, in 2013, Baishi first significantly lowered its delivery price in order to insert itself
into the already highly competitive express delivery market in Yiwu, a city of southeastern
Zhejiang Province. It is home to one of the largest small-commodity wholesale markets, where
billions of packages are shipped out each year. All the other major express delivery companies
have followed in the steps of Baishi since 2013, lowering their prices to gain market share. From
2015 to 2019, the average price to mail a package from Yiwu dropped by half. Many smaller
companies in Yiwu went into bankruptcy because they could not compete with their larger
rivals.
The pandemic has only intensified the “price war.” Most major express delivery companies have
suffered a sharp dip in profits, due to the lockdown measures imposed across China in early
January and most of February. According to a study by China Merchants Bank, the total number

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