Years of Missing Social Security Contribution in Hong Kong-Owned Factory ACFTU Ignored Workers’ Call for Help

All China Federation of Trade Unions (hereafter: ACFTU) is the only legal and recognized trade union organization in the mainland China, as China’s Trade Union Law restricts workers to organize independently. Very often when workers seek help from the ACFTU, its unsympathetic attitude turns workers down and they would then take collective action to resolve the problem. A recent labour action in Panyu Tongrong Electronic Co. Ltd. illustrates such a phenomenon perfectly.

Panyu Tongrong Electronic is fully owned by Hong Kong capital, Potechnics Printed Circuits Ltd. On 25 October, almost 100 workers wrote to the ACFTU branch in Panyu District, accusing the enterprise of not paying for their social security premiums over the years and calling for ACFTU’s help. The next day, somebody claimed to be an ACFTU staff came to talk to the workers. When workers asked him to show proof of his identity, he refused, forcibly took away a workers’ representative’s mobile phone and gave comments to support the employer.

 

On 1 November, ACFTU officially sent a representative to the factory to observe the negotiation between employees and employer. However, the ACFTU reprehensive remained silent during the negotiation and refused to comment even when the employer admitted the enterprise’s numerous unlawful acts. Thus, no agreement has been reached on that day and workers became upset. In the morning of 13th November, the Panyu District ACFTU, Labour Inspection Bureau and Street Office sent officials to host another negotiation. In that two-hour meeting, the employer pledged to repay the missing social security contribution, the ACFTU representative also promised to contact the local taxation bureau and social security bureau within three days, to come back to arrange the compensation with the workers. It all seemed to go to the right direction.

The next day, representatives of the Panyu District ACFTU, local taxation bureau, social security bureau, housing provident fund management center and street office came to discuss the compensation details with workers. Yet, they demanded the workers to provide their employment contracts and salary proof. However, the enterprise never gave workers such documents and therefore, workers had none of these to offer. Workers questioned, as the enterprise had admitted its failure to pay the social security premiums over the years, why should the workers, instead of the employer, be the one to prove this violation?  On 16 November, 9 workers’ representatives were forced to take 3-week leave due to the so-called insufficient business orders. Workers were enraged and over 40 workers climbed to the top of the factory building, threatening to commit suicide.

This incident reflects that the ACFTU cannot safeguard workers’ rights and interests. Facing workers’ calls for help, it often takes employers’ side and workers are left with no choice but collective actions.