Labour News

Breaking News: HE Xiaobo was released. Two still being detained

08

Apr 2016

 

The photo was taken on the released day (7 April 2016). HE held his daughter on his arm, his wife is on the sofa. (Photos from ifeng.com - http://news.ifeng.com/a/20160408/48392291_0.shtml?from=singlemessage&isappinstalled=)

 

HE Xiaobo, one of the seven detained Guangdong labour activists and director of the Nanfeiyan Workers Service Center, was released on bail and returned home to his family yesterday evening. In an audio message, He affirmed that he has returned home safely and would like to extend his gratitude to everyone for their support.

 

During his captivity, He was constantly subjected to severe psychological and physical abuse.  Not only was he put to long hours of interrogation, Xiaobo also suffered from a benign liver tumor.  The case was widely reported in the international media, which must be attributed Xiaobo's wife, Yang Min.  Although Yang Min was under house arrest for a brief period, she persistently published Xiaobo's news and created much awareness, which led to the eventual release of He. 

 

So far, five Guangdong labour activists has been released, with Zeng Feiyang & Meng Han still being detained. The charges on the released activists have yet to be dropped.

 

Threat against Meng Han’s family

Since the first day of his detention, Meng was interrogated successively for 16 days in a row. He was only allowed to sleep for two to three hours per day. The authorities questioned Meng on the operations of Panyu Migrant Workers Centre and the strike at Lide Shoe Factory. The police assumed that MENG had led, promoted and fuelled the labour dispute and demanded Meng to accuse Zeng Feiyang in exchange of a lenient sentence. Meng could meet his lawyer after several requests from his lawyer, he told his lawyer that he refused the above bait from the authorities and denied the accusations.

 

On the other hand, Meng's girlfriend and his parents received harassments from their landlord on a number of occassions since his detention and they were forced to move although their tenancy would not be due until 2017. On 29 March, several unidentified men gathered around Meng's home and approached Meng's girlfriend with iron clubs when she opened the door. They hit the door with their iron clubs in brute force and inflicted substaintial damage when Meng's girlfriend tried to close the door. Despite Meng's father reported the crime to the police on the same night, the police were relutant to investigate and just told them to move.

The door lock lock of Meng's home was damaged after the attack by a few unknown men. (Photos from Weibo)

 

Zeng Feiyang’s condition is unknown

Zeng’s rights to see his lawyer have been illegally denied and his condition remains unknown. The official media Xinhua judged him before the trial from the court’s decision. As a smear campaign to defame Zeng and the Panyu Center, the official media Xinhua News Agency published an article on 22 December last year and alleged the Lide Shoe Factory Strike as a "major public order disturbance incident". Zeng was involved in organising Lide Shoe Factory workers, who demanded the repayment of their missing social insurance and severance pay. Yet the state media accused him of, “making use of free rights defending services to accept overseas funding, severely disrupting social order and violating labour rights”. The media also adopted stigmatization to discredit Zeng, indicating that Zeng had used rights defending as a means to gain sexual privileges and took part in online nude chats and prostitution. The state media, China Central Television (CCTV) even came up with a 24-minute documentary to support the official story.

 

The background of the above crackdown

Since 3 December, the authorities in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong have carried out a coordinated and wide-ranging crackdown on labour rights activists and labour organizations in the province. More than 25 people from at least four labour organizations were taken away and questioned by the police. Seven of them were criminally detained or uncertain whereabouts.

 

Meng's father's detailed written record about the harassment against hos family so far, the attack on 29 Mar 2016 and the forced removal by landlord although the tenancy is due in 2017 but not this year

China Details Accusations Against Detained Labor Activists

23

Dec 2015

By CHUN HAN WONG

Dec. 22, 2015 1:03 p.m. ET

 

BEIJING—Authorities outlined allegations against seven labor activists detained earlier this month, claiming they used advocacy as a cover to disturb public order and violate workers’ rights, state media said.

 

In a lengthy report late Tuesday, the official Xinhua News Agency detailed police allegations against Zeng Feiyang and six others, who were detained in Guangdong province during what scholars and rights advocates have condemned as a crackdown on labor activism.

 

Mr. Zeng and his associates, according to Xinhua, have “long received financial assistance from overseas while intervening in domestic labor disputes, gravely disturbing public order and severely trampling upon workers’ interests.”

 

Xinhua said Mr. Zeng was also accused of fraud, adultery and embezzlement, saying the 41-year-old activist had used his labor nonprofit—the Guangzhou-based Panyu Migrant Workers Center—to enrich himself by funneling funds from foreign donors into his own bank account.

 

Xinhua didn’t name Mr. Zeng’s foreign donors. Activists say China Labour Bulletin—a Hong Kong-based watchdog—has been a source of funding for Mr. Zeng’s nonprofit, though the scale and timing of the donations weren’t clear. A spokesman for China Labour Bulletin declined to comment on the matter.

 

The Xinhua report cited interviews with police, workers and the detained activists themselves, though the agency quoted only one of the activists, Tang Huanxing, whom it said had offered a confession.

 

Xinhua said the seven activists—six men and a woman—have been placed under “criminal coercive measures,” which is a form of detention that typically precedes prosecution.

 

Mr. Zeng and a co-worker, Zhu Xiaomei, were accused of “assembling crowds to disturb public order” when they were detained early this month, according to their associates. He Xiaobo, a 40-year-old activist in the city of Foshan, was detained over alleged embezzlement, his wife said. It wasn’t clear what precise allegations have been made against the other four activists.

 

None of the seven could be reached for comment. Their lawyers and relatives say they haven’t been able to arrange meetings with the detained activists, despite several attempts over the past three weeks.

 

Scholars and rights advocates decried the allegations against Mr. Zeng and his associates, characterizing the Xinhua report as a smear campaign. They also criticized the detentions, saying it signals Beijing’s growing anxiety over a rise in worker unrest prompted by slowing economic growth.

 

The crackdown, scholars say, also dovetailed Beijing’s growing repression of civil-society groups, heightened monitoring of social media, and sharpened warnings against the spread of Western ideas and influences.

 

“The direction of Xi Jinping’s policy has been quite clear from the start: Push the [official trade unions] to become more capable of managing workers, while steadily reducing the space for grass roots NGOs, labor scholars and labor lawyers to operate,” said Ellen Friedman, a retired American trade unionist who has collaborated on labor research with mainland academics and activists.

 

China Labour Bulletin counted more than 2,600 strikes and labor protests on the mainland so far this year, far surpassing the 1,379 incidents recorded in the whole of 2014. Many of these protests took place in Guangdong’s Pearl River Delta region, fueled by unpaid wages and factory closures in the sprawling industrial zone that produces more than a quarter of China’s exports.

 

Scholars say the crackdown appeared to target veteran advocates who focused on advising workers on how to negotiate collectively during workplace disputes. The practice is sensitive in China, where state-run unions are the only legal form of organized labor, though workers say official trade unions often don’t represent their interests and side with businesses during disputes.

 

Mr. Zeng’s NGO is among a number of Guangdong-based nonprofits that promoted collective bargaining. In its Tuesday report, Xinhua cited workers’ representa

10:51:02 AM

tives in a recent shoe factory dispute as accusing Mr. Zeng and his associates of manipulating workers by encouraging them to go on strike and make “unrealistic demands” in negotiations with employers. These tactics, according to Xinhua, had put workers’ safety and financial interests at risk.

 

In its crackdown this month, Guangdong police also interrogated more than 20 other activists, according to those questioned. Many of them said they were asked about Mr. Zeng, his associates and their activities. Ms. Friedman, the retired American unionist, said police in Guangzhou interrogated her on Dec. 11 during a recent trip there, posing questions about her work in China, her relationship with local labor activists and academics, among other issues.

 

“The detentions have caused a climate of fear,” said Tim Pringle, a China labor scholar at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. “Removing people who know how to provide assistance to workers, and intimidating other NGOs as well as workers in the process, is more likely to increase the probability of social disorder rather than reduce it.”

 

Activists said Xinhua’s report marked the latest effort by Chinese authorities to shape public opinion on politically sensitive cases, by presenting what appeared to be a definitive conclusion on the cases before the completion of legal proceedings.

 

In July, state media reports portrayed a Beijing-based law firm as a criminal gang and featured what it said were confessions by the accused lawyers, who were detained amid a broad sweep against human-rights lawyers.

 

Write to Chun Han Wong at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Original source: Wall Street Journal http://www.wsj.com/articles/china-details-accusations-against-detained-labor-activists-1450807379

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.

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