Labour News

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.

New draft of China’s national security law for first time highlights Hong Kong’s responsibilities

11

May 2015

Proposed new version of the country's national security legislation highlights city's obligations on the controversial issue for the first time

Beijing has for the first time highlighted Hong Kong's obligations under a new draft of the country's national security law, raising the prospect of renewed pressure on the city to get moving on its own relevant legislation.

The draft bill, published online yesterday, makes it clear that Hong Kong must do its part.

Article 11 of the draft states: "China's sovereignty and territorial integrity brook no division. Safeguarding China's sovereignty and territorial integrity is the common obligation of all Chinese people, including people in Hong Kong and Macau as well as Taiwan."

Article 36 goes on to say: "The Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong and the Special Administrative Region of Macau must fulfil their responsibility to safeguard national security."

The full draft, which is up for public consultation until June 5, will be scrutinised by the National People's Congress next March at the earliest.

While legal experts doubt that China's national security legislation can be directly enforced here, local commentators and politicians see the unprecedented reference to Hong Kong as a clear signal Beijing wants the city to stop dragging its feet on drawing up its own legislation to ban acts of "treason, secession, sedition or subversion", as stipulated under Article 23 of the Basic Law.

It will be a tough sell to the public, judging by mass protests sparked by the last attempt in 2003 that led to the early resignation of former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa. Many in Hong Kong feared their rights and freedoms would be curtailed back then, and they continue to treat any talk of national security legislation with suspicion.

But pro-Beijing politicians say it's time to get moving on the highly controversial issue.

"There is no excuse for us not to fulfil our constitutional responsibility when our country has already enacted its own national security law," said trade unionist Stanley Ng Chau-pei, a Hong Kong deputy to the NPC. Ng triggered a storm in January by suggesting the mainland's national security law should be enforced directly in Hong Kong.

Legislator Priscilla Leung Mei-fun, a legal academic who specialises in China law, said the draft was a warning to Hong Kong over the lack of progress on the issue.

Professor Michael Davis, a constitutional law expert at the University of Hong Kong, said the mainland law could not be applied in the city unless it was added to Annex III of the Basic Law. However, Article 18 of the Basic Law does allow Beijing to apply national laws directly to the city under extreme situations such as a state of emergency in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong already has many relevant laws to protect national security even without the legislation of article 23, Davis said.

If an "attempt to apply mainland national security law to Hong Kong were made, it could pose serious problems respecting human rights, as the mainland law would likely not be protective of basic rights guaranteed in Hong Kong," he said.

Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung said yesterday he had not heard of any intention by Beijing to amend Annex III.

Democratic Party lawmaker Albert Ho Chun-yan said the move was a declaration of intent by Beijing. He said: "Hongkongers should be cautious and not give Beijing any excuse to push for the legislation … by advocating independence".

The country's first national security law, which took effect in 1993, did not touch on Hong Kong. It was renamed the Counter-espionage Law last year.

 
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 May, 2015, 11:45pm
UPDATED : Friday, 08 May, 2015, 11:59am

 

 

 
 
China Labor Ties Fray as Grievances Rise, Economic Growth Slows

09

Feb 2015

Guangzhou Research Center’s Sudden Closure Fuels Concerns About Industrial Relations in China

GUANGZHOU, China—For four years, a labor-research center here in the heart of China’s southern manufacturing belt helped to drive scholarship and debate on industrial relations in the world’s second-largest economy.
By CHUN HAN WONG

Feb. 9, 2015 7:37 p.m. ET

 

Then late last year, the International Center for Joint Labor Research, the first institute of its kind in China, was shut down, with little warning or explanation, people familiar with the situation said.

Its demise has alarmed labor experts, including some union officials, who see it as a setback for industrial relations just as China is dealing with rising worker grievances and 
slowing economic growth.

The center—jointly established by the University of California, Berkeley, and Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou City—sat on the front lines of labor tensions. Its experts delved into collective bargaining, dispute resolution and union rules. It kept contact with activists, multinationals and with officials in the government-backed trade unions federation—the only unions China allows, though many workers say they don’t represent their interests.

Problems have been most pronounced in the Pearl River Delta region around Guangzhou, a sprawling industrial slice of Guangdong province north of Hong Kong, that produces more than a quarter of China’s exports. It is also one of the country’s most strike-prone regions, where authorities have clamped down on industrial unrest over the past year, labor researchers and activists say.

“The overall situation in Guangdong isn’t well. Things are somewhat tense,” said Meng Quan, a labor scholar at the Capital University of Economics and Business in Beijing.

In Guangdong, instances of strikes rose by nearly a quarter to 301 last year compared with the preceding year, according to data collated by China Labour Bulletin, a Hong Kong-based watchdog. Strike occurrences across China, meanwhile, more than doubled in 2014 to 1,378, the data showed.

During a recent strike at Shenzhen Artigas Clothing & Leatherware Co., a garment factory that supplies Japanese casual-wear brand Uniqlo and others, police entered the plant to force more than 100 workers to return to their jobs, breaking from past police practice of staying outside the premises, according to activists involved in that strike.

Phone calls to Shenzhen Artigas went unanswered, while Fast Retailing Co. , owner of the Uniqlo chain, said it is urging the factory to conclude talks with workers as soon as possible. Guangdong police didn’t respond to a request to comment.

Reports of such intrusive police tactics have grown more common as authorities try to head off labor unrest as the economy slows. “Police suppression of labor protests have become more frequent, and their tactics more aggressive,” said a retired trade union official in Guangzhou. “They are worried about rising industrial unrest, particularly in the context of slowing economic growth.”

Beyond concerns about industrial tensions, the closing of the labor-research center comes as Chinese leaders are trying to limit foreign funding of public-interest and other activist groups. The aim, some analysts say, is to prevent the type of social ferment that led to revolutions against authoritarian governments in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

“There has also been a tightening in the political environment, which has manifested in growing wariness against foreign influences in Chinese academia and civil society,” said Mr. Meng, the Beijing academic. In closing down the center, officials at Sun Yat-sen University took a series of steps starting in October that effectively killed it off, according to people familiar with the situation. This included barring it from organizing events, making it relinquish its office, withholding its funding and putting its library into storage, they said. The center’s website has been taken down, while its account on Chinese social-media giant Weibo has been inactive since Oct. 12.

Neither Sun Yat-sen University nor Berkeley have offered public explanation for the center’s closure.

“Industrial relations is by nature a sensitive subject,” said the retired trade union official, who is familiar with the center’s work. “Although the center hadn’t gotten involved in industrial disputes or organized labor, the authorities appear to taking their knives to everything when dealing with perceived sources of trouble.”

The effect, labor experts said, is to send a chilling signal to reform-minded researchers and officials.

“It’s precisely at moments like this when you want something like this center, where people were trying to figure out why these things are happening and debate these issues—discussions that are useful for formulating policy,” said Eli Friedman, an assistant professor at Cornell University who has done research with the center.

Opened in late 2010, the center hosted dozens of local and foreign researchers studying industrial relations in China, and held regular discussions between scholars, unionists and business leaders.

Senior executives from German auto maker Volkswagen AG visited regularly and spoke at seminars about industrial relations and human-resources management. Kong Xianghong, an inspector and former vice-chairman of the Guangdong Federation of Trade Unions, contributed an article to the center’s journal discussing collective wage negotiations during a 2010 auto-factory strike.

Collective bargaining—the process of negotiating terms of employment between employers and organized groups of workers—is an issue the center gave much attention to. The practice is touchy in China, where state-controlled unions are the only legal form of organized labor and are supposed to negotiate on behalf of workers.

Collective negotiations have increasingly featured in industrial disputes in Guangdong, where authorities recently rolled out a law that gives workers the right to collectively demand talks with employers over wages and benefits. The labor-research center helped, organizing academic discussions during the drafting of the law to gather opinions and translating drafts into English for the benefit of foreign scholars.

It isn’t clear how the closure would affect labor-related research at Sun Yat-sen University, which in December 2013 committed to hiring a new professor of industrial relations and social development with donations from Volkswagen. The hiring process hasn’t been concluded, a Volkswagen spokeswoman said.

Other U.S.-China university partnerships on labor studies-such as that between Cornell University and Renmin University in Beijing-haven’t been affected, though they primarily involve academic and student exchanges, according to researchers familiar with those programs.

Mr. Meng, the Beijing scholar who contributed a paper on collective bargaining to the center’s journal, said that being located in the manufacturing belt of Guangdong gave the Sun Yat-sen center an impact that labor-research programs at other institutes don’t have. “In Guangdong, academics have greater influence on students and the broader labor community, which may have worried authorities on a political level,” he said.

—Olivia Geng contributed to this article.China Labor Ties Fray as Grievances Rise, Economic Growth Slows

source: Wall Street Journal
http://www.wsj.com/articles/china-labor-ties-fray-as-grievances-rise-economic-growth-slows-1423528666

Responses from UNIQLO and G2000 concerning workers’ strike in Artigas Factory

23

Jan 2015

 

In response to the open letters from the General Secretary, Ms Lai-ha Cheung, of the Retail, Commerce and Clothing Industries General Unions on 15 January 2015, UNIQLO and G2000 has made their responses on 20 January and 18 January 2015 respectively. Both the company have acknowledged the problems stated by Ms Cheung in the letter seriously and have requested Artigas for an appropriate explanation and urged the factory to negotiate with the workers. G2000 also announced that they have stopped placing new orders in Artigas since early January 2015 until the dispute is resolved. The companies pay great attention to the creditability of their business partners and wish the labour dispute can be resolved as soon as possible. Full version of responses from UNIQLO and G2000 are enclosed below. 

 

Response from Fast Retailing Group (UNIQLO)

 
 
 

 

 
 

Response from G2000

 

A public statement on 18 January 2015.

Statement: Responses to labour dispute at our supplying factory

A labour dispute has taken place in one of our supplying factories. In early 

December 2014, workers staged a strike in Artigas Clothing & Leatherwear 

Co. Ltd, due to missing social security premiums and housing public 

accumulation fund in arrears. The labour dispute has not yet been resolved.

In early January 2015, G2000 has decided to immediately stop placing new 

orders in this supplier, until the case is resolved and a new decision will be 

made.

Our chairman Michael Tien has urged the factory to seek consensus with 

the workers’ representatives through negotiation. G2000 has always been 

concerned about our business partners’ credibility and wishes this case can 

be appropriately settled as soon as possible.

G2000

 

2015年1月18日發表公開聲明

《聲明》: 有關外判生產商廠房勞資糾紛回應

就本公司其中一個外判生產商廠房的勞資糾紛,有以下回應:

本公司產品供應商之一深圳市龍華新區的慶盛廠,由去年12月初發生工人罷工,

質疑廠方拖欠社保及住房公積金,至今勞資糾紛仍未完全解決。

本公司本月初已決定於勞資糾紛解決前,即時終止對該廠的新訂單,直至事件明

朗化,再作另行決定。

本公司主席田北辰已敦促廠方,透過與勞方代表談判尋求共識。本公司一直高度

關注商業夥伴的信譽,冀事件盡早獲得妥善解決。

G2000

 

Relevant background information for reading:

Letter Writing Campaign: calling UNIQLO and G2000 to urge Artigas to negotiate with workers equally: http://en.hkctu.org.hk/mainland-china/press-release-and-statement-cn/letter-writing-campaign-calling-uniqlo-and-g2000-to-urge-artigas-to-negotiate-with-workers-equally

Missing social security and fund and housing provident fund lead to strike at Hong Kong-invested factory: http://en.hkctu.org.hk/mainland-china/labour-news/missing-social-security-fund-and-housing-provident-fund-lead-to-strike-at-hong-kong-invested-factoryhttp://en.hkctu.org.hk/mainland-china/labour-news/missing-social-security-fund-and-housing-provident-fund-lead-to-strike-at-hong-kong-invested-factory

Violence against workers in Artigas Factory: http://en.hkctu.org.hk/mainland-china/labour-news/violence-against-workers-in-artigas-factory

Urgent Appeal: Tell UNIQLO and G2000 stop using violence against workers in Artigas Factory: http://en.hkctu.org.hk/mainland-china/press-release-and-statement-cn/urgent-appeal-tell-uniqlo-and-g2000-to-stop-using-violence-against-workers-in-artigas-factory

HK unions urged UNIQLO and G2000 stop the violent suppression on the Artigas Factory workers: http://en.hkctu.org.hk/mainland-china/press-release-and-statement-cn/hk-unions-urged-uniqlo-and-g2000-stop-the-violent-suppression-on-the-artigas-factory-workers

CGT France Solidarity Letter with Artigas Workers: http://en.hkctu.org.hk/mainland-china/press-release-and-statement-cn/cgt-france-solidarity-letter-with-artigas-workers

Response of UNIQLO about Artigas' strike: http://en.hkctu.org.hk/mainland-china/labour-news/response-of-uniqlo-about-artigas-strike

 

 

 < 1 2 3 4 5 >  Last ›