Labour News

Update as of the 5th December 2015 on the Chinese detained labor NGO activists

06

Dec 2015

21 labor activists arrested by police, 3 under criminal detention, 4 could not be reached

 

According to reliable sources obtained by Red Balloon, as of the 5th December 2015, altogether 21 labor activists were arrested by the police. Three of them are right now under criminal detention. 14 of them were released after inquisition. Another four labor activists cannot be reached. In addition, 6 family members of the labor activists have been approached and questioned by the police.

 

The update situation of the detained labor activists is as of the followings.

 

1. Zeng Feiyang* from Panyu Migrant Workers Documentation Centre has been under criminal detention, being charged of “mobbing and disrupting social order”. (a) His wife, parents and the eldest brother were under inquisition by the police. (b) On the evening of 4 Dec, Tang Jian (whose online nickname is Beiguo), worked previously in the Panyu Migrant Workers Documentation Centre, was arrested in Beijing and cannot be reached since then. (c) Wang  Sanmu was ordered to go to the police station and was released on the afternoon of 4 Dec. (d) He Minghui, who worked in Pegasus Group (a shoe manufacturer) and is a volunteer of the Panyu Migrant Workers Documentation Centre, was under the police’ inquisition and was released. (e) Some workers heard that the police was looking for Xiao Jin from the Centre’s Zhongshan office.

2. Zhu Xiaomei* from Panyu Migrant Workers Documentation Centre are still under criminal detention due to the charge of “mobbing and disrupting social order”. She has two kids; the youngest child is one year old and has been relying on breastfeeding.

3. He Xiaobo* from Nanfeiyan has been detained due to the charge of “financial embezzlement”. His wife has been ordered not to use social media to publicize the case.

4. Peng Jiayong* of Panyu-based Laborer Mutual Aid Group was arrested on 3 Dec and has not been released.

5. Chen Huihai, the director of Guangzhou Haige Workers’ Services Centre (previously the workers’ training department of Guangdong Laowai Law Firm) was arrested on 3 Dec. The police had kept him in a hotel room for inquisition. Deng Xiaoming* and Meng Han* were taken away for investigation and have not been released. The Service Centre’s staff Bin Xue and He Bing, two workers associated with the Center Huang Dongmei and Cheng Neng Wen were questioned on 3 Dec and were released.

6. Luo Hongmei and Zou Jiajun of Sunflower Women Workers Centre were arrested on 3 Dec and were released on 4 Dec.

*refers to those activists that cannot be reached, are still under detention or officially charged by the police.

Directors went missing: NGOs under attack due to assisting workers affected by factory closures

04

Dec 2015

Stand News, 4 December 2015

Photo Caption: Chen Huihai spoke of “remedies for workers’ representatives under suppression” at a conference on protective mechanisms for workers’ representatives. He elaborates that what his services centre could interfere when a workers’ representative has been under attack, which include joniing workers’ voices to demand release at the police station, informing and comforting the representative’s family, appointing a lawyer to meet the representative, seeking help from media and etc. (Source: from the blog of Haige Workers’ Services Centre)

 

Many labour rights NGOs in Guangdong Province have suddenly been “raided” by police recently. Some of the directors of these NGOs went missing and at the time of writing, their whereabouts remain unknown. Director of Haige Workers’ Services Centre, Chen Huihai had told the media that these abductions meant to suppress the labour NGOs and were led by the municipal police, before he lost contacts with the media.

Safeguarding workers’ rights intensified their conflicts with local governments

According to Chinese Human Rights Defenders, a new wave of detentions targeting labour NGOs in Guangdong, after the detention of Liu Shaoming, a labour rights activist in Guangdong on 30 May, has started. In recent years, the frequent factory closures in Guangdong have forced a vast number of workers to join the army of “rights defenders”.  Labour NGOs, whose mandate is to assist workers, provide them legal advice in tripartite negotiations between workers, employers and governments, have been involved in more and more conflicts with local governments.

As reported by Radio Free Asia, in the morning of December 3, numerous police officers came to Haige Workers’ Services Centre (previously the workers’ training department of Guangdong Laowai Law Firm) in Panyu District of Guangzhou City and took away  the centre’s staff Bin Xue and He Bing, two visiting workers Huang Dongmei and Cheng Neng Wen. Another staff, Deng Xiaoming was also captured when he returned to the office.

Many remain missing

At the same time, directors and staff members of Panyu Migrant Workers Documentation Centre and Sunflower Women Workers Center, Zeng Feiyang, Zhu Xiaomei, Luo Hongmei and Peng Jiayong also lost contacts with others. Reporter at Radio Free Asia contacted Chen Feihai at about 2pm on December 3. Chen was hiding in a hotel but expecting the police would detain him soon. He described that since November, his right to leave the country had been restricted and he believed this crackdown would be targeting all labour NGOs.

“I got it confirmed half hour ago. They (the police) are expanding the seizure to all. Staff members of all our four offices were under surveillance. Today I went to gather some business information from the district government. Luckily I am not yet captured. But I guess I can’t walk far before they catch me. I am hiding in a hotel but with their surveillance facilities, I can’t escape. They have just made it clear that they would detain me, saying ‘you don’t need to run because you can’t’.”

 

“Financial Embezzlement” as the reason for detention

An hour later, when the reporter tried to call Chen Huihai again and found his phone was off. He called again the Fuhua Police Station and an officer confirmed that Bin Xue and others were kept in the police station. Yet, s/he refused to give the reasons of the detentions or comment when they would be released, and later reflected that police station was not in charge of these detentions and suggested the reporter to contact criminal police or the state security teams.

Radio Free China later reported that four detainees from Haige Workers’ Services Centres were released, after giving testimonies at the Fuhua Police Station. However, the others remain unheard. Simultaneously, He Xiaobo, director of another labour NGO Nan Feiyan in Fushan City was forcibly abducted by the police, for a so-called charge of “financial embezzlement”.

Sources: Radio Free Asia, Chinese Human Rights Defenders and BBC Chinese site 

The story of Artigas worker representative Wu Weifa

17

Nov 2015

Due participation in the industrial action, Artigas factory prohibited Workers’ representative Wu Weifa (the middle one) from accessing the factory on 9 June after dismissing her from her position.

 

Wu Weifa is a typical woman from rural China:  uneducated and illiterate.  If it wasn't because of the Reformation, the nearby town might have been the fartherest place she had traveled.

 

Due to poverty, she became one of the hundreds of millions migrant workers who flooded into big cities in search for jobs.  Shenzhen, as foreign as it can be, has become the home of Wu Weifa for more than 20 years,

 

When she first started working at the Artigas Leatherware Factory (UNIQLO's supplier), she did not expect to work there for more than 20 years.  Nor could she foresee she would be dismissed, arrested, prosecuted, and imprisoned for supporting workers' rights.  All she was looking forward to was a just and rightful retirement pension in exchange for her 20 years-long service.

 

When she turned 50 years old in 2013, although Wu has reached the statutory retirement age in China and worked for Artigas for more than 20 years, she was not entitled to any pension benefit.  As a means to save cost, her company just started to make contribution to her Social Security only a few years ago, which was a common practice among many corporate in the Pearl RiverDelta Region.  Thus, she could only remain at the factory on a rolling contract, which was not covered by the labour law since she has passed retirement age.  Thus, she participated in the strike in December, 2014 to fight for all her Social Security and Housing Compensation in arrears.  However, the management only employed delay tactics and refuse to follow up on the issue.

 

Due her participation in the industrial action, the factory prohibited Wu Weifa from accessing the factory and dismissed her from her position.  The dismissal triggered more than a thousand workers to go on strike in support of her.  Not only the company did not explain the reasons for her sudden dismissal, they even collaborated with the local police force and arrested Wu.  The workers carried on with the strike for almost two months until it was eventually crackdown by the local police force.  The police held Wu Weifa as hostage and intimidated the workers' representatives to resign from the company and ultimately forced the workers to give in.  Wu Weifa was later prosecuted of “Obstructing Public Affairs” and imprisoned until October 8. 

 

After this incident, Wu Weifa was physically and mentally fatigued.  However, there there're are many more Wu Weifa's in China.

The development of the labour dispute in Mizutani, Disney’s Supplier

07

Sep 2015

The development of the labour dispute in Mizutani (Shenzhen) Toy Factory Co. Ltd.

 

  • Mid 2014, the employer moved some machinery to its branch in the Philippines. Workers put out a notice, asking the enterprise to explain such a move but it was ignored.

 

  • Since October 2014, workers have been not required to work overtimes. Their monthly wages was 1,808 yuan and after deducting social insurance premiums, the income became very low. The less senior workers left the factory and the factory did not recruit new workers to replace them.

 

  • In the afternoon of 16 January 2015, workers launched a strike. At that time, their boss was not in China. Mr Mizutani negotiated with workers between 20 Jan and 22 Jan. He went missing again on 22 Jan.

 

  • On 24 January, the enterprise put out a notice, calling for a negotiation between workers and a consultancy, which represented the enterprise, on 26 Jan.

 

  • On 26 January, the negotiation failed and the enterprise posted a notice, demanding the workers to resume working before 30 Jan or they would be dismissed “for absenteeism”  without compensation.

 

  • On 30 January, a new round of negotiation reached mutual agreement.

 

  • On 31 January, workers resumed working

 

  • On 1 February, the workers' representatives received a notice by fax, informing them that the compensation of each year’s services would be 1,000 yuan. The representatives did not believe that such a reply was coming from their boss. Some stated their objections and demanded the yearly compensation to be 1,808 yuan (the legal minimum wages). They signed and faxed their feedback to mr Mizutani.

 

  • On 2 February, other workers read the notice in the factory and were outraged. They protested in the streets outside the factory complex. Within minutes, police forced workers to return to the factory and detained 15 people on spot. Later the police detained another 6 people in the factory, including women workers who were injured in the clashes. A total of 21 workers were detained. Workers were forced by the police to delete all the photos they had taken.

 

  • At 2.30pm, the Japanese employer announced through an internet meeting, that he could only compensate workers their severance compensation on the basis of 300 yuan per year of services. He later offered 500 yuan  compensation per year of services but demanded workers to resign and a clear-cut termination of their labour relations.

 

  • 15 workers were released that evening, but the 6 workers who had been detained in the factory were held in custody.

 

  • On 3 February, one worker was released in the morning while the other 5 were administratively detained for 5 days. The labour bureau threatened workers that if they would not return to work the next day, the 5 workers would be detained for even longer. Workers could not stop the shipment that afternoon and to speed up the release of the 5 workers, they agreed to resume working the next day.

 

  • In April, workers wrote a joint-petition to complain about forced dismissal. The Walt Disney sent a facilitator to come up with an agreement with the enterprise.

 

  • At 5pm, 18 June, the enterprise announced its closure, quoting business difficulties. It demanded workers to sign an agreement to terminate their labour relations by 12 noon the next day. The agreement claimed it was achieved on the basis of “unanimity through consultation”. Workers were also asked to move out from their dormitory before 23 June.

 

  • On 19 June, workers' protest was in vain. All workers signed the agreement to terminate their labour relations. They identified some problems after receiving the severance payment. Workers' representatives collected and compiled the workers' demands and labour organization called for Disney's intervention.

 

  • On 17 July, a Hong Kong NGO, Disney and Mizutani held a meeting.

 

  • On 5 August, Disney replied that it had found workers' demands groundless after its investigation.

 

  • 7 August, Mizutani workers wrote to Disney, demanding it to compensate them on behalf of Mizutani, as follows:


1. Mizutani unilaterally terminated workers’ labour contracts. Legally speaking, it should pay a double-severance compensation and Disney should pay for the missing part of the compensation;

2. Mizutani closed the factory down without giving an one-month written notice prior closure, thus, it should compensate its workers one month’s wages;

3. Compensation should be calculated by wages payable (currently, the one month’s wages compensation is calculated by the average wages payable of the past 12 months, between June 2014 and May 2015), instead of the actual wages.

4. The missing premiums of workers’ social security insurance since their dates of commencement.

5. The missing contribution of workers’ housing provident fund since their dates of commencement.


 

latest development of the artigas workers strike

11

Aug 2015

The following is an update on the Artigas Workers Strike:

 

  1. Another detained workers' representative, Ah Ying, has been released (believed to be 3 days ago).  The only detainee remained unreleased is Wu Weifa who was arrested on June 9;

 

  1. Although most of the workers have signed agreements with the management, they were forced to sign under intimidation (holding the detainees as ransom and intimidated by the police). Thus, many of the workers refuses to comply and prepared to file a lawsuit against the Lever Group;

 

  1. The litigation materials from the first group of 72 workers have been submitted to the law firm,  these materials will be submitted for court filing in the next few days;

 

Starting from 20 July, workers gradually signed the agreement, even it was against their own will. The employer-drafted agreement states that workers resign voluntarily and Lever Style Inc. offers them a “relief fund”, calculated by their years of services. Workers would receive 500 yuan per year of services if they work shorter than 10 years in the factory. For over 10 years of services, they would get 800 yuan per year of services. This “relief fund” is far below the compensation required by law, i.e. a month of wages for each year of services. The average monthly wages of Artigas workers were 3,500 yuan, instead of the legal minimum wages 2,080 yuan. Most of the workers are unhappy with this compensation and some workers are considering to file a class action lawsuit.

 

By 13 August, all workers who were detained in the July clearance were released. However, Wu Weifa (known as Sister Fa), who was first detained on 9 June, was still kept in custody. Her family has received a criminal detention notice, charging her with “obstructing official business”.

 

Workers leaders from Hong Kong solidarity makes us strong we support Shenzhen Artigas II

23

Jul 2015

Workers' leader Bagen from Hong Kong, solidarity makes us strong! Find out more on Bagen's thoughts:

Construction Site Workers General Union committee member Bagen (left)

Bagen is a committee member of the Construction Site Workers General Union. He participated in the protest as well. Despite his job duties on that day, he still take leave to join this protest. Bagen said, ‘If this is the right thing to do, I would be glad to do it even if I have to take leave for it; if this is not the right thing to do, I would not do it even if I can take money from doing it.’ When asked whether this protest action can really improve the situations for Artigas workers, Bagen said that our group in Hong Kong along might not be able to make any difference, but when we joined our force with that from Taiwan, Japan, Cambodia, the US, and other labor groups in the world, we would be able to touch UNIQLO and make change possible. Bagen said, ‘No matter what the outcome is, if you feel that this is the right thing to do, you should do it.’

 

「To fight for justice, you cannot avoid paying a price」

Coach Drivers Union committee member Nan

Nan, a Coach Drivers Union committee member said, ‘We are all workers and we must support each other.’ According to Nan, the reason why Artigas workers were put in such bad situations today was that nowadays in society, business men and governents who lack conscienciousness connive with each other and join hands together to suppress workers. When speaking about the current situation of Hong Kong Labour Movements, he also expressed his concerns, ‘the situation in mainland China also applies to that in Hong Kong. If you voice out for your rights, the boss would fire you. They stop you from fighting against them using such method.’ Fortunately, Nan was retired and had no such worries as being fired due to defending rights of workers. However, as Nan has said, although one man can have only limited power, ‘Solidarity makes us strong’.

 

「Do what you think is right」

Workers leaders from Hong Kong solidarity makes us strong we support Shenzhen Artigas III

23

Jul 2015

Workers' leader Fa from Hong Kong, solidarity makes us strong! Find out more on Fa's thoughts:

 

Community Care and Nursing Home Workers General Union committee member Fa

When asked the same question as to how he viewed this demonstration activity, Fa, a committee member of the Community Care and Nursing Home Workers General Union, had different opinions. Fa thought that this protest might not be very effective because the problem Artigas workers were facing was one about the social system. In mainland China, government does not help maintain justice for the grass root, but instead connive with the rich and exploit the workers. Under such circumstances, according to Fa, ‘exploitation is an inevitable product of this big market, small government policy’. Now that Hong Kong is undergoing a shift towards mainland, Fa worried that the same situation for workers would permeate to Hong Kong. Therefore, Fa thought that walking around with banners and slogans were far from enough, he said, ‘Our protest is soft, and therefore useless. We should learn from the female workers from the Korean movie Cart, who occupied the shop and stopped the shop from doing business. Only when we push them to that stage would the company owners really reflect on what they have done and engage themselves in a negotiation with workers.’ However, Fa also recognized that, if we really do so, it would influence the public perception on us, making them feel that ‘we are radical and violent. In Hong Kong, it is also unlikely that we do so.’ Fa signed deeply and said, ‘To fight for justice, you cannot avoid paying a price.’

Response from Artigas Workers to the statement of Lever Style Inc

26

Jun 2015

Artigas Workers’ Statement: in response to the Statement from Lever Style Inc., issued on 26 June 2015

 

28 June 2015

 

We are workers from Artigas Company who continue to demand collective negotiation with the employer, in order to resolve the current labour disputes. We are deeply dissatisfied with the statement issued by Lever Style Inc. on 26 June 2015 (hereafter: Lever Statement), as it distorted the reality and legal regulations. Thus, we issue this statement to clarify the following items:

 

1. On 2 June, the enterprise refused to receive our registered mail, containing an invitation to collective negotiation. As a result, we posted the same invitation at the enterprise’s notice board, read it in front of the management and handed it to them directly. However, the enterprise has refused to make any constructive response to this invitation. The Lever Statement mentioned it held “another round of meetings with the workers” on 25 June was merely a group of workers, who had been accused of “absenteeism” and with their names being posted on the notice board, came to reason out with the management. Due to their demands of collective negotiation, the enterprise removed the card punching machine from the factory and their attendance could not be recorded. The management used this trick to accuse them of “absenteeism”. At the so-called meeting, the company director replied only “not sure, not clear, no idea” to workers’ questions such as if the enterprise would accept the invitation to collective negotiation and how the enterprise would address workers’ collective demands. Before 25 June, the enterprise had never engaged in any dialogue regarding workers’ collective demands. All these indicate that the enterprise has no intention and takes no actual actions to resolve the disputes. The Lever Statement is merely a lie to entertain the public.

 

2.Lever Statement falsely stated that its relocation had met “all local and national Government legal requirements”. Yet, Article 4 of China’s Labour Contract Law, Article 28 of Regulations on the Promotion of Harmonious Employment Relationships in Shenzhen Special Economic Zone and other regulations have stated, the formulations, amendments and decisions made by employers which have a direct impact on employees’ immediate rights and interests, shall be presented to and discussed with the employee representative congress or all the employees, and the proposal and advice thereof shall be determined after consultation with the labor union or employee representative on the basis of equality and collective consultation should not be denied. Artigas’ changes on labour relations (by signing contracts with Lever Style Inc.) and labour conditions (by relocation) are indeed having a direct impact on employees’ immediate rights and interests, which requires consultation between employees and employer for the final decision to be made, instead of a decision which the employer can solely make. However, the employer has only informed the workers about this relocation by putting out a notice, giving workers final warnings, removing card punching machines. All these authoritarian measures forcing workers to accept the new arrangement, is a direct violation of laws.

 

3. “To repay the missing pension premiums into the social security system, dating back to the commencement of their employment; to repay workers the overtimes wages which had been deducted since the commencement of their employment” were among the six demands in our invitation letter. Lever Style Inc. claimed to “meet all of its legal obligations with respect to the payment of retirement benefits”. Yet, evidence shows that the social, pension insurance premiums were not paid for the majority of senior workers for many years, which leaves them not entitled to pension or with very low pension. Lever Style Inc. and Artigas Factory refuse to acknowledge their long-term violation of labour rights and continue to turn a blind eye to workers’ lawful demands. The Lever Statement, claiming that it has fulfilled all legal requirements, is an irresponsible and shameless lie to the public.

 

4. The Lever Statement claimed that “no workers were dismissed due to the relocation”. Yet on 8 June, Artigas Factory announced to dismiss Wu Weifa, a workers’ representative and denied her entry into the factory. (this news was released on 9 June, via the microblog of “Rights defending action of Artigas workers”)

 

5. Currently, there is neither strike, nor absenteeism in Artigas Factory. We continue to operate as the terms and conditions required in the previous labour relations. As we disapprove the enterprise’s undemocratic relocation plan, we are safeguarding the machinery and our workplace, to avoid being accused of “absenteeism”. We strive to defend our labour rights and to protest against the enterprise, which illegally ignored our demand of collective negotiation. 

 

We strongly condemn Lever Style Inc. for publishing a dishonest statement, which distorts the truth, deceives the public and fails its corporate social responsibility.

 

We sincerely call for a genuine meeting with the Lever Style Inc., to work out solution with workers.

 

 

Signed by

All workers who are defending their rights at Shenzhen Artigas Clothing & Leatherware Company

 

 

   

Statement from Lever Style Inc

 26 June 2015, Hong Kong: Lever Style said today that yesterday it conducted another round of  meetings with the workers involved in the industrial action at a facility it operates in Shenzhen. As yet the discussions have not reached a conclusion.

With respect to the industrial action the situation is as follows:

  • The action is in response to the decision to relocate all 900 workers to another Lever Style facility five kilometres away in the same District.
  • The decision to relocate and the manner in which it was communicated to the workers meet all local and national Government legal requirements.
  • There is no legal requirement for Lever Style to pay compensation for relocation within the same District. This has been confirmed by the Government and the company’s legal advisers.
  • Lever Style continues to hold discussions with the 300 workers who remain at the now idle factory. Over 500 workers have already moved to the other facility.
  • The company has continued to operate the air conditioning in the factory, and cleaned the pantry and toilet facilities as normal during this period.
  • The new factory has space for all relocating workers and Lever Style has supplied a shuttle bus for workers to get to the new location.
  • No workers were dismissed due to the relocation and there is no change to the workers’ remuneration or benefits.
  • Two attempts to move machinery and inventory from the factory have been blocked by the striking workers.
  • Lever Style currently meets all of its legal obligations with respect to the payment of retirement benefits.
  • In response to approaches from Hong Kong-based NGOs, including a visit by a delegation to the Lever Style offices in Hong Kong, Lever Style has entered into correspondence with their representatives.

Lever Style is disappointed that this group of workers have decided to take this course of action in response to a decision which will optimize the company’s operations in China. Lever Style’s other facilities in China continue to operate as normal. 

 

One Year Anniversary of the Yue Yuen Workers’ Strike:  Conditions and Voices of Workers

11

Jun 2015

April 14, 2015 was the one-year anniversary of the mass strike by the workers at Yue Yuen,a footwear manufacturer. On April 14, 2014, all 50,000 workers from the Yue Yuen factories went on strike to demand that the management make up for the shortage in its contributions to their social insurance, which it had failed to pay in full.  At the beginning, there were only 1,000 workers. A few days later, all 50,000 workers from the 6 plants owned by the company in Dongguan joined the strike. Labour groups in Hong Kong (including HKCTU), the USA, Australia and the UK demonstrated at offices and shops of Yue Yuen’s clients, which are branded sportswear companies. In the end, the management agreed to pay the arrears to its contribution to workers social insurance and housing fund. The management also promised to give workers an additional 230 yuan monthly living allowance. Has the management kept its promise? Are the workers satisfied? Let’s have a look at Qinyue’s survey published on “Voice of the Hammer” on Weixin, an online forum in mainland China.

 

The Cause of the Strike—the Social Insurance and Labour Contract Pitfall

Photos of Yue Yuen strike.

Yue Yuen Industrial Holdings Ltd. is the largest footwear manufacturer in the world. Its clients include most branded sportswear companies, such as Nike, Adidas, Reebok. Yue Yuen’s net profit in 2013 was more than HK$ 3.3 billion. However, since the company established its plants in Dongguan in 1988, it has never abided by the law and has never paid the full sum of social insurance calculated on the basis of workers’ wages. Neither has it contributed to their housing fund. Moreover, since 2006, Yue Yuen has changed the name of its factories as well as the name of the persons to which the factories are registered. Despite this, the factories’ old names are still used in labour contracts. It is therefore doubtful whether these labour contracts are legal.

 

Social Insurance Contribution Arrears

Legal Requirement

Yue Yuen’s Offences

 

Social insurance covers five types of insurance, including pension, medical expenses, work-related injury compensation, maternity and unemployment payment. It is stipulated in the laws of Guangdong Province that employers should contribute 29.2% and the employees should contribute 11% to workers’ social insurance.

 

 

 

Workers are registered as “temporary workers”.
 

 

 

 

For example, the company’s payment should be 876 yuan if the monthly income of a worker is 3,000 yuan.
 

 

The contribution was calculated using worker’s basic income, which was 1,810 yuan, as the base. As a result, the company paid only 528.52 yuan, i.e. a shortfall of 347.48 yuan each month.


The One-Year Anniversary of the Strike—

Payment of Social Insurance Contribution Arrears

In Apr 2014, Hong Kong labour organizations protests at Yue Yuen Headquarters and major sportswear stores.

According to some Yue Yuen workers, the company has paid back the arrears to the social insurance and housing fund separately. The arrears are paid in instalments by grouping workers according to how long they have worked for the company. Last year during the strike, some workers argued that it was the management that had violated the law but it was the workers who had suffered. They therefore demanded that the payment on the part of the workers be paid by the management as well. Some workers said that if the payment had been deducted every month from their income, they would have felt less pressure. It would be very difficult for an average working class family to find the money to pay a lump sum all of a sudden. Most workers would be forced to give up paying the arrears. Because of pressure coming from the management and the government, workers were forced to resume work and these demands were never met. Now the workers’ concern has become a reality.

 

According to the workers, when the company is ready to pay back an instalment of the contribution arrears, the workers are only given three days to prepare their contribution, which is to be given to the management. No delay is permitted and workers can only choose to pay promptly or give up paying a part or the full sum of their contribution to the social insurance. Some workers who have no money or do not have a stable income end up not paying the contribution to their pension.

In Apr 2014, Hong Kong labour organizations protests at Yue Yuen Headquarters and major sportswear stores.

One worker, who is over 40 years old, has worked for Yue Yuen for 15 to 16 years. He has to pay over 20,000 yuan for social insurance as well as the housing fund, which means he needs to pay a total of 50,000 yuan. Since he has no money, he has to borrow it from his friends.  He has worked in the factory for a long time. After paying the arrears, the total number of years he has contributed to the pension is 15 years.  Now it is possible for workers to find out the status of their social insurance contributions from the system.

In Apr 2014, Hong Kong labour organizations protests at Yue Yuen Headquarters and major sportswear stores.

Wages

 

Yue Yuen has a number of plants in Dongguan and the way they calculate workers’ wages are very similar. It is based on the basic wage + length of service + 100% attendance award + living allowance + OT payment + other awards. The basic wage is set at the same level as Dongguan’s minimum wage which was 1,310 yuan a month. Last year during the strike, the management proposed to provide an additional 230 yuan monthly living allowance. When the workers demanded that the increment be added to the basic wage their request was refused. How much do the workers of the giant footwear manufacturer earn? According to a worker of the Old No. 3 Plant, their basic wage is very low and workers are not allowed to work for more than 36 hours overtime every month. The workers therefore earn as little as 2,700 to 2,800 yuan a month, and this is before worker’s contribution to social insurance is deducted. In other plants, workers can do overtime work for as many as 80 hours a month. When they do, workers earn about 3,000 yuan.

 

The Trade Union’s Re-election?

After the strike, a re-election of the trade union was held and trade union committee members were nominated and elected in proportion to the number of workers in each department and in each plant. Most candidates were managers. One worker said that a colleague, who was a trade union committee member, had told him in private that the trade union had met and that there was no use in seeking help from trade union committee members when an employee had a problem.  He told the story of a worker who had worked in another Yue Yuen plant and who wanted to pay the social insurance and housing fund arrears. He needed his personnel information from the old plant but could not find it when he went there. He asked for help from the trade union committee member in his own department (who was the head of the department) but he was told that nothing could be done. In the end, the worker gave up the social insurance that he had had for a few years. For most workers, it is a common consensus that the trade union is useless and they would not seek help from the trade union on their own initiative when they are faced with a problem.

Feminist activists detained ahead of International Women’s Day

11

Jun 2015

On International Women’s Day, activists from both China and Hong Kong organized campaign programmes to fight against sexual harassment. The Women’s Committee of the HKCTU hosted a press conference and taught self-defence on the streets. However, five feminist activists in China, Wang Man, Li Tingting, Wei Tingting, Wu Rongrong and Zheng Churan, were detained by the Chinese police and sent to a detention centre in Beijing on the Eve of International Women’s Day. They were detained on suspicion of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” after planning a multi-city protest aimed at bringing an end to sexual harassment on public transport. They were then cut off from the world and even their families and lawyers could not contact them. The Women’s Committee of the HKCTU, the Association for the Advancement of Feminism and Amnesty International then launched a series of solidarity actions, prior to their release on 13 April 2015. This case, known internationally as that of the “Feminist Five”, has shocked the world. Yet, what impact does it have on the feminist movement and the labour movement in China and Hong Kong? How do the organizations which advocated for their release see it? This quarterly would like to look into the details.

Wu Guijun, a labour activist who was detained for a year due to his participation in a strike, told us that he personally would not be held back by this kind of crackdown but grassroots workers may be affected. “Workers tend to have a sense of fear. Local governments often use such tricks to suppress labour activists and workers’ representatives, as they are not held legally accountable while they can lock you up for 37 days.” How then should workers deal with such a brutal law enforcement and juridical system? Wu believes, “a lawyers’ network is essential to back workers’ collective actions up. Lawyers have to stand up, provide support when things go wrong. Workers must be very scared when they are first locked up and under the current system only lawyers can get in touch with detained workers.”

Apart from the support of lawyers, civil society’s voices and actions, inside and outside China, have played a significant role in the Feminist Five’s case. “This incident illustrates the importance of international solidarity among feminist organizations. Seeing many global organizations joining our petition campaign to call for their release within only a few days, we felt very empowered. I respect the Feminist Five’s courage and the bravery the mainland Chinese supporters showed.” said Luk Kit-ling, chairwoman of the Association for the Advancement of Feminism.

 

Laiha Cheung, vice-chairwomen of the HKCTU and member of the Women’s Committee said it was an undeniable responsibility to support the Chinese feminist activists. “We are rather lucky in Hong Kong. We have not encountered too much suppression when fighting for women’s rights. Thus, we have to support our fellow feminists, to care about Chinese women’s rights and defend human rights together.”

Campaign picture to free the five feminists. Source: Free Chinese Feminists Facebook 

While the Feminist Five have been released, the charges against them remain. This means that they could be detained and criminalized at any time. In other words, our quest is not yet over, we have to continue campaigning until their charges are dropped. 

Growing labour conflicts: more strikes due to Hong Kong enterprises’ labour violations

11

Jun 2015

Police brutality against the labour movement: strikers physically assaulted in factories

In the second year since the establishment of its database to monitor Hong Kong-owned enterprises’ conduct in China, the HKCTU collected documents and reports from media, social media and other labour organizations on various collective labour actions that took place between May 2014 and April 2015. At least 25 cases of workers’ collective rights-defending actions involving Hong Kong capital (a 40% growth compared with the previous year, between May 2013 and April 2014) are identified.  20 of these cases took place in the Pearl River Delta and more than 90% involved strikes. Nearly 30% of cases came from listed companies in Hong Kong. Almost 70% of the cases were triggered by the Hong Kong-owned enterprises’ violations of the Labour Contract Law. 60% of the cases involved “cut and run”, whereby workers received either little or no compensation and were left with wage arrears when the factories closed.

Our major findings show a growing trend in labour actions and various violations of labour legislation, involving suppliers of numerous multi-national companies. Artigas Clothing & Leatherwear Company in Shenzhen, a supplier of UNIQLO and G2000, for example, was found to have not been paying workers’ pension premiums and housing funds for many years, resulting in many women workers retiring without a pension. Due to this, as well missing overtime wages, over 1,000 workers launched a strike in early December 2014. This case illustrates the multinational companies’ failure to address the labour violations of their suppliers and that labour exploitation remains a severe issue.

 

Enterprises gave false wages slips so as to pocket social security premiums

The findings also revealed that about 30% of the labour conflicts were due to missing social security premiums. One of the cases involved Foundation Industrial (Far East) Ltd. A strike broke out at its Shanghai Gaojian Garment Ltd. in Pudong New Area of Shanghai on 16 October 2014. Workers demanded the enterprise repay their two-months of missing wages and their missing pension premiums of many months. Ms Wang, a worker explained, “the enterprise had stopped paying for our pension premium since November last year. Yet, it always deducted the premiums from our wages. We workers have very low wages, how can we continue to live like this?”

When over 1,000 workers staged a road blockade outside the factory, hundreds of police and auxiliary police officers were deployed to violently disperse the workers. Many workers were injured and detained. One worker reflected angrily, “We were trying to get back our hard-earned money but were subjected to physical assaults and arbitrary detentions. It is outrageous! Is this the People’s Police’s way of defending its citizens?” Yet, the Hong Kong factory owner refused to address the problem and declared bankruptcy on 21 October 2014, making it impossible for the workers to make their claims. Foundation Industrial (Far East) Ltd. is a recidivist in this regard. In August 2014, workers at its subsidiary Yunfu Gaojian Garment Ltd in Guangdong Province also launched a strike as they were not paid in July.

 

There were also missing contributions to social security premiums at Artigas Clothing & Leatherwear Company in Shenzhen, a supplier of UNIQLO and G2000, and at Huixin Precision Components Co. Ltd., a supplier of Sony and Panasonic.

 

Strikers assaulted in the factory and detained for “sabotaging production and business operation”

It is a worrying trend that workers are increasingly being threatened or assaulted by police whilst defending their rights. After the brutal assaults against workers at Artigas (detailed reports are available in the previous quarterly), workers at Xinsheng Shoe Factory of Panyu District, Guangzhou, jointly-owned by Hong Kong, Macaoese and Taiwanese capital were arbitrarily detained for “sabotaging production and business operation”. Workers started a strike on 16 September 2014, to protest against its relocation without consulting the workers, missing social security premiums over the years, absence of paid annual leave and statutory holidays and unpaid overtime wages. In late August 2014 when workers discussed their unfair treatment at the factory, managerial staff ridiculed them saying, “even if you produce more products, the company will only pay you the legal minimum wages for Panyu District. You can stay and quit as you wish.” Such a nasty attitude outraged the workers and they demanded to negotiate with the management. Yet, the employer ignored their lawful demands and called the police to threaten the workers, leading to the strike in September.

The struggle lasted for three months. Yet, workers were either turned down or suppressed by the employer, police and the authorities at the provincial, municipal, street and community committee levels. On 22 September 2014, 116 workers petitioned the Labour Inspection Team (a similar department to the Labour Department in Hong Kong and whose responsibility it is to handle labour disputes). The Labour Inspection Team sided with the employer and forced the workers to drop their demands, threatening them with prison terms. During those three months, 14 workers were detained and one of the workers’ representatives, Yang Dongsheng, suffered from a serious liver disease and needed daily medication. However the Dongguan Police Station strictly refused his wife’s request to visit and bring him medicine. Among the detained workers, seven faced the criminal charge of “sabotaging production and business operation”, and were released on bail after some 20 days of detention.

 

Violence to silence labour organizations in recent months

Since the second half of 2014, the Chinese Government has been frequently questioning and monitoring foreign funding, putting enormous pressure on NGOs, especially those which are working on “sensitive issues” such as labour rights. On 16 June 2014, the “Administrative methods of social organizations in Guangzhou City” was adopted and stated that “a social organization with ‘major funding from foreign organizations’ should be considered as ‘a branch, a representative organization of a foreign organization, or an organization which is effectively controlled and administrated by a foreign organization in this city’ and therefore, its registration should be revoked.” When “a revoked social organization continues to operate as a social organization”, it was to be treated as “an illegal social organization”. These regulations led to a loud outcry from the NGOs and were later removed from the finalized “Administrative methods of social organizations in Guangzhou City”.  Currently China’s proposed law on foreign NGOs is undergoing a public consultation. This law attempts to tighten control over foreign NGOs and their partners, leaving little room for them to operate.

In fact, labour organizations have suffered from violence and evictions since 2012. In recent months, physical assaults or police harassment have been taking place frequently, making their survival even more difficult. On 2 April 2015, Peng Jiayong, Liu Shaoming, and Deng Xiaoming, volunteers at the Haige Workers’ Services Centre were forcibly abducted to Yakou Police Station in Zhongshan City by some 30 self-proclaimed policemen and unidentified persons. Deng and Liu were released after eight hours in custody and Peng was continuously attacked by the police officers throughout the detention time, resulting in many injuries in his loin, ribs, back of his head, right leg and other parts of his body. The police refused his repeated requests for medical treatment.

 

In the past year, the local governments and Hong Kong-owned enterprises have been working closely together to further violently suppressed strikes. Ironically, the number of strikes continues to rise under such harsh conditions, which clearly shows that crackdowns fail to resolve labour conflicts and lead to deteriorating labour relations. The only way out is equal negotiation between employees and employers.

New development of the case of Artigas

02

Jun 2015

Artigas workers issue an invitation letter to employer, calling for collective negotiation to resolve problems of the factory’s relocation in the near future

 

Background

Shenzhen Artigas Clothing & Leatherware Company is a Hong Kong-invested garment factory, specified in the production of shirts. Its workforce is about some 800 workers and is located in No.2 Industrial Zone, Guanlan Town of Shenzhen City, China.

On 10 December 2014, it was reported that the factory would relocate. Some senior workers who had served the factory for over 10 years, realized that the employer had only contributed 4 to 5 years of their pension premiums, which would leave them not entitled to pension when they retire. Together with the missing housing provident funds, deduction of overtime wages, some 800 workers decided to launch a strike to safeguard their rights. On the 8th day of the strike, some 200 workers were violently cracked down by the police, numerous workers were assaulted, they fainted, injured and got fractures. Police detained some 20 people, including bystanders on the street. Workers were forced to resume working after the crackdown. Since then, the factory seldom assigned workers to work overtimes, which led to the problem of lower incomes. Younger workers decided to resign but some senior workers felt unwilling to leave without being properly compensated.

On 2 June 2015, workers at Artigas elected their representatives from each department and representatives to conduct collective negotiation. They are determined to defend their rights and issued an invitation to the employer, demanding to start a collective negotiation.

 

 

Full text of the invitation letter

2 June 2015

 

Dear management of Artigas Clothing & Leatherware Company,

We are the workers of Artigas. Acting in the spirit of the Party Central Committee and related legislation and regulations, we are now inviting you to collectively negotiate, regarding the enterprise’s relocation, changes on labour relations and employment terms, and many previous labour violations. We hope that you would appoint your representative(s), arrange time and location, to conduct a collective negotiation with workers in good faith and address the workers’ demands responsibly, as follows:

 

1. to repay the missing pension premiums into the social security system, dating back to the commencement of their employment;

2. to repay workers the overtimes wages which had been deducted since the commencement of their employment;

3. to repay the missing high temperature subsidy since the commencement of their employment;

4. to compensate workers, in terms of wages, the paid annual leave which they are entitled to but were not given;

5. to clarify the arrangement of relocation with workers and define the compensation arising from the changes of labour relations;

6. other collective demands which workers are concerned about.

 

We have elected workers’ representatives from each department and our representatives for the collective negotiation; appointed Guangdong Laowei Law Firm as our consultant during the negotiation process and hope to resolve the above-mentioned demands and safeguard our lawful rights through effective collective negotiation. The above demands are derived from facts, namely, the company’s long-tem labour violations. We hope, instead of intensifying our conflicts and acting against a peaceful solution, you would show us at least some sincerity and live up your so-called corporate social responsibility.

 

We expect a clear written reply from you, appointing enterprise’s representative(s) who can truly represent the enterprise and arrange a concrete date and location to negotiate with workers in good faith.   

 

Yours sincerely,

Workers’ representatives of Shenzhen Artigas Clothing & Leatherware Company

Labour Rights Violations and Crack down of strike at New An Lun Lamp (Shenzhen) Co.,Ltd. in China

13

May 2015

Labour Rights Violations and Strike in New An Lun Lamp (Shenzhen) Co.,Ltd. in Guangdong Province, China

Violations on labour rights

The workers had no long tolerate severe violations of labour conditions by New An Lun Lamp (Shenzhen) Company Limited in China. New An Lun Lamp (Shenzhen) Company Limited is a supplier producing bicycle light products in China. The mother company is Milltech International corp, which is a Taiwanese capital. The owner is Wang Zhi Gong.

The factory has severely violated the Chinese labour law and social insurance policies; they have not contributed the pension and housing provident fund to the workers which are mandatory according to the laws. 

Moreover, workers have not been paid for sick leave, maternity leave, work Injury leave and marriage leave which they are entitled to. The factory has just started to pay for workers’ annual leaves from 2011. Workers are requested to report duty 10 minutes earlier in morning and after lunch time without being paid for overtime allowances. According to the labour law, the workers working in high temperature workplace are also entitled to high temperature allowance.

Violations on the Occupational Safety and Health
 

The factory has not provided safety equipment for the workers and has not arranged any medical check-ups for the workers. Even worse, the factory only opens one washroom for 80 workers and limits the time of usage out of the convenience of management.

The workers sent a complain letter to the management in mid-April but the management only agreed with opening more washroom for the workers but refused to meet other demands. For paying back the unpaid allowances mentioned above, the factory can offer payback for 2 years only. In the process, the employer did not negotiate with the workers and only replied them with a notice.

The workers were dissatisfied with the response and started to strike on April 28, the government departments had showed up but did nothing to help the workers. The workers have been on strike for 13 days to demand for negotiation with the boss. On 11 May, the employer even sent thrugs to attack workers and tried to transport away the finished goods in the factory. Some workers were injured in the conflict.

Ongoing struggles and strike action facing violent assults

The workers staged on strike before May Day and they are still going on their struggles regardless various forms of oppressions from the employers, gangsters and police. Many workers were injured on May 11 when there were a group of gangster coming to the factory plant to attack the striking workers. Some strikers were even forced to knee down to the employers.

 On May 13 morning, policemen broke into the factory plant to arrest 9 workers and the factory immediately dismissed 6 workers' representatives. The 9 workers were arrested under criminal charges and they were still detained at the police station. Many of their co-workers gathered outside the police station to demand for release of them.

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