Workers’ representative breaking through restrain - Female Worker Shen Meng-yu
Editor’s note: How did true workers’ representative break through restrain and suppression by yellow union or official union, and get a seat on the negotiation table? How did workers elect their true representatives in mainland China which was filled with fake elections? At NHK Spring Precision (Guangzhou) Co., Ltd (hereafter “NSPG”), the OEM of Honda, workers answered these questions in their brilliant way.
Her name is Shen Meng-yu. On 19 June 2018, she filed a case against the NSPG at the Guangzhou Court of Labor and Personnel Dispute Arbitration. Shen Meng-yu worked as a dispatch worker at NSPG since November 2015, and became a formal worker in 2016. In 2018, Shen and other workers broke through restrains of the official union, and elected Shen as a representative to collective bargaining on annual wage increment. However, both the NSPG and the official union were not happy with this “unusual” workers’ representative, and fired her based on made-up excuses. Shen Meng-yu thus filed a lawsuit against the NSPG for “unlawful” dismissal.
Elections of workers’ representatives were often mere formality. In the general election of NSPG Union in June 2017, the whole process was controlled by the employer. It was said that workers could only sign on the ballot and the name of the elected person was filled in by the employer to control result of union chairperson. It was how the chairperson of the official union, Guo Zheng-yong, was elected. Later, he worked closely with the employer to suppress Shen Meng-yu’s status as workers representative.
The “collective bargaining on wage and annual bonus” was another formality where the official union and the employer colluded to put up a performance. The employer was planning to release the news after a few rounds of “negotiation” with the official union, as usual. However, workers have learned from the strikes of automobile workers in Guangzhou in 2010 that official union and the employer were of the same batch. This time, they decided to choose their own representative.
Election through the We-chat groups
Discussion to elect workers’ representative by one-person-one-vote started among the workers. The workers conducted an informal referendum through the We-chat groups and 90% of the workers agreed to elect their representative by one-person-one-vote. In the second voting through the We-chat groups, Shen Meng-yu was elected. With the support of the workers, Shen Meng-yu became one of the representatives at the negotiation process. Among the nine representatives, she was the only one supported by the workers, not designated by the official union.
Shen Meng-yu did not gain the support of workers overnight. The workers and Shen were echoing workers of other automobile factories in Guangzhou to fight for provident fund paid by employers to dispatch workers. After Shen was elected as negotiation representative on 10 April, she started to collect opinions from the workers to fight against the telling of “no resources for wage increase” by the employer.
Under the pressure from the workers, the official union had to accept Shen Meng-yu as negotiation representative. However, the employer and the official union tried every way to disqualify her. On the one hand, she was forbidden by the employer to return to her workplace to “stir-up the workers”, while in fact it was to stop her from conducting questionnaire survey in the factory. On the other hand, the official union claimed that there was “complaint on irregularities in the election process” and postponed the negotiation with the employer, and suspended the qualification of the workers’ representatives. These two moves were made on 16 and 17 April respectively, an obvious demonstration of the collusion between the employer and the official union. On 24 April, the official union proposed to disqualify Shen Meng-yu as worker representative after an “investigation”. Guo Zheng-yong called for a general assembly but the official union lost the game as workers voted down the proposal. The move has made Shen Meng-yu’s status as worker representative to negotiation even stronger. Shen Meng-yu urged the union to restart the negotiation and adopt “wage increment of 8%” as the basis of negotiation.
The employer stepped in after the failure of the official union. Numerous posters to defame Shen Meng-yu suddenly appeared in the factory, accusing her of destroying the negotiation. On 21 May, the employer asked the union to replace Shen Meng-yu or the negotiation would be called off. By late May, the personnel department accused Shen Meng-yu for providing untruthful resume and leaking confidential information of the company, and recorded a demerit on her personal file. Using these excuses, Guo Zheng-yong disqualified her as negotiation representative. The employer dismissed her immediately.
The fact that the union and the employer joined hands to dismiss Shen Meng-yu proved that her proposal was supported by the workers. The employer has to respond to workers’ demand, even after playing a high-hand on the workers’ representative. In June, NSPG announced the proposal of 6% wage increase and 4-month-salary annual bonus. On the day Shen Meng-yu filed the lawsuit with the Guangzhou Court of Labor and Personnel Dispute Arbitration, the employer announced repayment of provident fund for dispatch workers.
“In the process, we won our rights, as well as our dignity of a human being! There were people fired and peopled tartged, but it was only because we did not have enough workers in solidarity!” Shen Meng-yu wrote. The war is not finished yet. Shen Meng-yu will meet the NSPG at the court to defend her status as elected negotiation representative of the workers.
Reports for reference (Chinese):
Worker representative: the road of worker Shen Meng-yu
Letter of query from Shen Meng-yu to union chairperson Guo Zheng-yong
Shen Meng-yu’s letter to Human Resources and Social Security Bureau of Guangzhou
Voice from Meng-yu: Solidarity is power