Position and Analysis

Global Solidarity from Trade Unions and Labour Organizations

03

Mar 2016

Free Detained Chinese Labour Activists Now!

 

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 have been taken away and questioned by the police. At least seven of them have been criminally detained or currently uncertain whereabouts. Those five who are being put under criminal detention on charges include: Zeng Feiyang, the director of Panyu Workers’ Centre and labour organizer Zhu Xiaomei; labour activist He Xiaobo, who runs a group in Foshan called Nanfeiyan that helps injured workers; Activist Peng Jiayong, the founder of a workers’ self-help group, and another labour activist Deng Xiaoming. The authorities have prevented lawyers from meeting any of the detained. Labour activist Meng Han is being detained at Guangzhou City No. 1 Detention Centre.  The police has continued to harass and intimidate the family members and friends of the detained activists and prevented them from giving media interviews.

 

 

On Dec 21th, 2015, trade unions and labour NGOs from around the globe demonstrated their solidarity in support the detained Chinese labour activists.  Global trade unions including the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), IndustriALL, International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Association (IUF), and national unions from France, Italy, Sweden, Belarus, New Zealand, Cape Verde, the Philippines and Sri Lanka have respectively expressed their concerns to the Chinese government and demanded the release of the detained labour activists.


Unions, labour organizations, and activists have also protested in front of Chinese Embassies/Consulate General in Britain, France, Switzerland, South Korea, and Denmark.  Labour organizations from Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Finland, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Indonesia and the US have also expressed their concerns and protests with various actions.

 


About 50 representatives from the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions and other labour rights organizations from Hong Kong also joined the league in support of the global action by staging a protest march starting from the Western District Police Station to the China’s Liaison Office. The representatives present a joint petition signed up by more than 155 labour organizations and over 2,000 individual supporters across the world for urging the Chinese authorities to release the recently detained labour activists in the country.
This wave of global protests further demonstrate the illegitimacy of the arrests and strengthen our struggle for the release of the detained activists.  You can also participate in the solidarity action by signing the online campaign on LABOUR START (
http://www.labourstartcampaigns.net/show_campaign.cgi?c=2916).

Turning a blind eye to Hong Kong employers’ violation of social security obligation

03

Mar 2016

Deprivation of Regulation on Collective Contracts

 

On 28 October 2015, the HKCTU and other labour organizations launched a protest at United Centre in Admiralty, to condemn the four major business associations in Hong Kong, which had been connived its members at owing Chinese migrant workers’ pension insurance premiums and forcing the Guangdong Provincial Government to revise its Regulations on Collective Contracts (2015).

 

 

According to a research conducted by the HKCTU, more than 55% of the labour actions in Hong Kong-owned factories are caused by missing social insurance premiums, especially in pension funds. The missing social insurance premiums in total are estimated to be RMB 3.6 billion. The HKCTU had written to the business associations, demanding them to better monitor their members in practicing their corporate social responsibility and to blacklist unscrupulous enterprises. However, the business associations failed to address this issue.


On the other hand, the four major business associations and Hong Kong entrepreneurs published a statement and open letter in newspaper in 2015, demanding the Guangdong Government to stop implementing its Regulations on Collective Contracts. Their action eventually forced the Guangdong Government to remove some restrictive provisions, e.g. the penalties which employers would face if they refuse to negotiate with workers are removed. Such a revision makes the regulations a toothless tiger and workers’ rights to collective bargaining are deprived.

 


At the protest, the HKCTU used a pair of scissors to cut a drawing of handshake apart. It symbolized that the four business associations had destroyed the harmony between workers and employers. The HKCTU continues to urge the business associations to blacklist members or revoke memberships when they violate Chinese labour legislations. Chinese workers’ rights to collective bargaining should be respected and the HKCTU would welcome a meeting with the business associations, to discuss the labour exploitation conducted by Hong Kong entrepreneurs in China.

China Labour Series: The Tragedies of Occupational Disease Victims

26

Jan 2016

 

Author: Eddie Chow

 

It is frequently reported that workers suffer from occupational diseases as they have worked in vile working conditions without adequate protective measures. Occupational leukaemia, caused by exposure to toxic chemicals is the second leading killer among occupational diseases. For example, Zou Xiuhua suffers from leukaemia after working less than two years in Johnson Electric’s plant in Shenzhen City. Chen (not his real name), another worker at Qilitian Golf Articles (Shenzhen) Co. shares the same fate, as he has worked with toxic chemicals over a long time.

 

According to the ILO standards and China’s Law on Prevention and Treatment of Occupational Diseases, leukaemia, hand-arm vibration syndrome and other diseases in relation to occupational exposures to toxic chemicals or job nature are categorised as occupational diseases. Xiuhua, a worker from Johnson Electric who suffers from leukaemia, reflects that the factory was equipped with bad ventilation system and provided its workers inadequate protective measures. Workers received only earplugs and gloves, which could not protect them from toxic chemicals. Xiuhua used to work directly with motor oil, such a prolonged exposure to toxic chemicals increased his chance to contract occupational diseases. He had asked the factory to give workers face masks but the factory refused, saying it had not enough face masks. In the end, Xiuhua contracted leukaemia.

 

When he was undergoing his second chemotherapy, he met four other leukaemia victims from Johnson Electric and started to suspect their disease was work-related.  He joined other workers to claim compensation from the factory, but encountered many obstructs in getting their occupational diseases verified. The factory refused to provide materials for their diagnosis and the relevant government departments turned them down while they demanded the report of working environment. Even at the appraisal of their occupational diseases, the employer would distort the facts so that the official reports could not show that workers had contacted toxic chemicals at work, and therefore workers cannot hold their employer accountable.

 

In the polishing department of Qilitian Golf Articles (Shenzhen) Co., workers suffer from hand-arm vibration syndrome from polishing golf cues and got leukaemia through inhaling toxic detergent over a long time, like Chen. In a workshop on occupational diseases organised by the HKCTU, workers described their working conditions and hardship in getting compensated.

 

Workers pointed out that Qilitian had neither provided training on work safety, nor informed them about the toxicity involved in their jobs. Before 2008, the factory only provided dust masks to workers, which are not respirators and could not protect them from inhaling toxic chemicals. Though the factory later improved its protective gears, it refused to compensate sick workers and was found to owe workers’ social insurance premiums. When workers fell sick and demanded to get their occupational diseases diagnosed, the factory would delay and refuse to go through the process. Instead, it lobbied the workers to make secret deals and used relocation, wages deduction to force workers to leave, as its way to avoid responsibility. When the government recognized the workers’ occupational diseases, the employer would use all sorts of ridiculous reasons, such as lack of manpower in the hospital, to prevent other workers from getting medical check-ups.  As his employer refused to provide the necessary information, Chen could not get his occupational disease appraised. He is determined to hold the employer accountable, not only because he cannot afford the expensive treatments, but he cannot allow the employer to walk away freely from its responsibility.

 

Until now, there have been hundreds of cases of hand-arm vibration syndrome in Guangdong Province. Apart from workers in Qilitian, some million metal-polishing workers are also affected from this disease. Some factories even have closed down to avoid compensation. These victims with hand-arm vibration syndrome and occupational leukaemia, like Xiuhua and Chen, are hopelessly trapped in the process of getting their legal compensation and medical expenses covered. Brands, to uphold their corporate social responsibility, should proactively supervise the working conditions and labour rights in their suppliers’ factories and refuse to make business with exploitative suppliers. Furthermore, the government should implement the Law on Prevention and Treatment of Occupational Diseases effectively, strengthen its supervision on working environment and safety training, conduct regular body checks for workers to ensure workers are informed of their occupational diseases as early as possible. The government should also make sure employers to pay for all necessary compensation and medical fees, as required by law. 

UNIQLO’s neglect of its supplier’s labour exploitation

26

Sep 2015

UNIQLO’s neglect of its supplier’s  labour exploitation
Difficulties and reflections on the Artigas workers’ collection actions

 

In recent years, Lever Style Inc., the Hong Kong-based parent company of Artigas Clothing & Leatherwear Factory and its Japanese buyer UNIQLO have been enjoying a rapid rise in their turnover. Their workers, who have been treated as disposable and have been left with nothing, have not benefit from this prosperity however. During the process of factory relocation and merger, senior workers at Artigas, who had worked for decades at the factory and made garments for UNIQLO and other brands, were told that they would not be entitled to pension and severance compensation. Artigas workers have been the most resilient workers in defending their rights.

All for the supplier & brand, workers are left pensionless

On 2 June 2015, they proposed holding collective consultation and were forced to stage a 40-day-strike, enduring the heat-wave while guarding the factory and living under police surveillance and ongoing threats. However, when the workers’ representatives were detained, they were finally defeated by a business-government collusion and accepted a compensation agreement far below the legal standard. Will the workers be stopped there? What can we learn from their experience? CLQ interviewed some anonymous informants to learn about their preliminary reflections.

 

Detention of workers’ representatives forced workers to sign an unfair agreement

On 15 July, police broke into the factory complex and a violent “clearance” took place to remove workers from the factory. 12 active workers were detained. In the police vehicle, they were threatened that if they kept on defending their rights, they would be treated with criminal detention and charges. Lever Style Inc. also visited some workers’ families to threaten them. Police told the detained workers’ families that release would be granted if all workers signed to accept the compensation programmes proposed by the employer. The police also hinted that the detainees’ families should lobby other workers to accept the compensation programme. Starting from 20 July, workers gradually signed the agreement, even though it was against their own will. The employer-drafted agreement stated that the workers’ resignations were voluntary and that Lever Style Inc. had offered them a “relief fund”, calculated based on their years of services. Workers would receive 500 Yuan per year of service if they had worked less than 10 years at the factory. For over 10 years of service, they would get 800 Yuan per year of service. This “relief fund” is far below the compensation required by law, i.e. one month’s wages for each year of service. The average monthly wage of Artigas workers was 3,500 Yuan, instead of the legal minimum wage of 2,080 Yuan. Most of the workers are unhappy with this compensation and some workers are considering filing a class action lawsuit.

By 13 August, all workers who were detained in the July clearance had been 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”.

Artigas workers encountered brutal repression on the 9th day of their collective action

 

The ending of the Artigas workers’ collective action is outrageous and upsetting. CLQ has summed up the discussion with the informants and their reflections are found to be as follows:

 
1. In a vulnerable position, workers should be better prepared with a go-or-retreat strategy

The power imbalance between workers and the employer was intensified by the business-government collusion. Although workers had predicted that the government would side with their employer and police brutality would be deployed, they should have known that their resistance would only last for a limited time. Thus, it would have been helpful to have organizers who could help them plan their retreat plan in advance.

Artigas workers on the 17th day of their strike

 

2. Workers were not well organized in starting their collective action

Having a team of worker representatives was not enough to push such a massive collective action forward. Between the two strikes in December 2014 and June 2015, workers could have had half a year to strengthen their internal organizing and gain more support regarding other issues, such as prolonged overtime and high temperatures at the workplace. However, the number of worker representatives and active workers did not increase over this period of time. After the police detained a large number of worker representatives in mid-July, the other some 300 workers spilt and their collective action collapsed, despite the fact that they had guarded the factory for 40 days together.

Confrontation between police and Artigas workers

 

3. Workers’ resistance needs family support

The most resilient workers were senior female workers, who made up the majority of the final some 300 workers who guarded the factory. They had a very strong will. However, when the employer and police started to put pressure on their families, their faith was shaken. One organizer admitted that their action had failed to organize workers’ families or to help workers deal with pressure from their families. This was one of the factors that led to their action being aborted.

Artigas workers protesting in Guangzhou

 

4. Media and external attention as a double-edged sword

Artigas workers could not speak up in China and needed foreign media and social support to pursue their quest. Yet, they were also worried that foreign support might cause them trouble. When they launched the fund-raising programme to collect funds for petitioning, for example, enormous support was brought in. Yet, the police noticed this and hindered their action (e.g. by confiscating the ATM card for their fund-raising programme). This caused workers to keep quiet about their actions and some even considered the fund as a bomb and refused to use it. Organizers reflected that they should have prepared the workers better, to inform them about the potential risks of getting external attention and teach them about possible solutions.

Artigas women workers launched a street fund-raising action

 

In short, Artigas workers have been unfairly treated. If they had not resisted and protested, their employer would have just left without paying them a penny of compensation. In a way, they did not fight this battle alone. Support actions for the workers and protests at UNIQLO stores have taken place in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, America, Britain, Turkey, South Korea and Cambodia. The strike might have been settled but workers will still use legal means to claim compensation from Lever Style Inc. The HKCTU will also seek international support through different channels to hold UNIQLO accountable.

Street theatre showing that UNIQLO products are from sweatshops

 

Hong Kong labour organizations demanded UNIQLO to urge Lever Style Inc. to compensate workers and repay their social security insurance as required by law


Japan

 

Britain

 

San Francisco, USA

 

South Korea

70% rise of industrial actions in Hong Kong invested enterprises in China

26

Sep 2015

Missing social security insurance and severance compensation as major causes

 

“Missing social security funds initiating a new wave of labour movement: Violent suppression intensified” is the theme of the “Investigative Report on Labour Rights in Hong Kong Enterprises in China 2014-2015”. On 11 August 2015, the HKCTU released this report, exposing the common labour violations of Hong Kong suppliers in China, which produce for internationally known brands, such as Marks & Spencer, Disney, UNIQLO and etc.

 

Compared with the previous year, there is a 70% growth of recorded collective labour actions, nearly 90% involved strikes. It is estimated that 150, 000 workers were affected and about 85% of the industrial actions were caused by violations of China’s labour law. Over 30% of the involved enterprises are owned by or supply for Hong Kong listed companies. The cases documented, show that during the labour conflicts, the Hong Kong suppliers all use police to “resolve problems”, namely suppressing workers. Lee Cheuk-yan, general secretary of the HKCTU described it as a “stability before rights” approach of Xi Jinping. Thus, it is clear that “defending workers’ rights is the way out for Chinese workers”, to uphold its rule of law is a priority for Chinese workers.


The HKCTU urges the international brands to comply with international conventions to respect fundamental labour rights, especially freedom of association and collective bargaining rights. Multinational corporate should not allow suppliers to replace collective bargaining rights with telephone hotlines or individual meetings with workers. The HKCTU also calls the Hong Kong Government and Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) to regulate Hong Kong enterprises regarding their labour practice in China. They should exercise disciplinary measures, such as public condemnation,  revocation or suspension of license or fining, when appropriate. The Government and SFC should take OECD’s "Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises" as a reference, to develop guidelines on labour rights and to monitor the Hong Kong entrepreneurs to respect workers’ rights.

Automobile workers’ collective actions

26

Sep 2015

and development of grassroots unions:
a case study of ST Auto Parts Factory

Author: Elizabeth, from Red Balloon Solidarity. Edited by CLQ

 

ST Auto Parts Factory (hereafter: ST Factory) is jointly-owned by Japanese and Taiwanese investors and is one of the very few Chinese factories where direct elections of its enterprise union have successfully been conducted. ST Factory employs 536 workers, producing auto springs and shake absorbers for Toyota, Honda and Nissan. Since 2010, two strikes have broken out in ST Factory, with workers demanding to increase their wages and receive their annual bonuses. In 2011, its union started to run democratic elections. The key to ST workers’ success is linked to the automobile industry’s characteristics. However, one should not overlook how they have also have encountered pressure from the factory management and the upper level union.

 

Picture from internet

 

Automobile workers’ power & the industry’s characteristics

Compared with workers in other sectors, automobile workers tend to have a stronger sense of their rights, awareness of their worth and recognition of their identity. These factors strengthen their determination in pushing for union democratization. Furthermore, Japanese and Korean automobile producers tend to use a single supplier for a certain auto part, to reduce the costs of merchandising and production. Thus, when a strike in an auto parts factory takes place, it can lead to a halt of the whole production line. This gives the automobile workers a formidable bargaining power in front of the employers and government.


In the past, collective actions might be unorganized and an one-off. The recent union-led collective actions have become better organized and contributed to actively building up a workers’ network. This has also provided better protection to labour activists. Yet, in the process of building a democratic union, ST workers have encountered many obstacles.

 

Major barriers to union development after its democratic election

Firstly, after the democratic election, the majority of union representatives and union committee members turned out to be line managers and engineers, who would rather not risk their current wages and welfare and tend to keep quiet in front of the employer. To make matters worse, the employer is offering job promotion to the union chairperson, to buy his cooperation in suppressing the call for collective consultation, a vocal demand in the third term of the trade union.


Secondly, ordinary workers are generally obedient and afraid of authority; they tend to elect their managers as union representatives, instead of those who genuinely speak for workers. Ordinary workers’ union participation is also restricted. The ST trade union, for example, sends emails to inform its members about attending meetings, but since ordinary workers are not allowed to use mobile phones or computers at work they often miss the union meetings.

 

Pressure from the upper level union: inadequate room for grassroots unions to perform

The upper level union defines the role of its grassroots unions as a facilitator to smoothen labour relations instead of as defenders of labour rights. Such a definition restricts the grassroots unions’ development. The ACFTU expects the grassroots unions to handle workers’ problems and consider the enterprises’ interests. In its views, grassroots unions serve the roles of resolving labour disputes and reducing industrial actions.

The ST Union is still a young union. Grassroots workers’ recognition of a bottom up organizing approach and wisdom to crack the intervention from their employer and the upper level union are the key to their union growing strong and independently.

Why is being a “rights lawyer” a high-risk job?

26

Sep 2015

 

Between 9 and 20 July 2015 alone, at least 235 lawyers in China were taken away by the police from their homes or offices. This wave of detention led to an international outcry and some 200 Chinese lawyers and citizens started a joint petition. They demanded that some one hundred policemen be held accountable for criminal offences such as “abuse of power, neglect of duty, defamation, disciplinary violations”. Director of Beijing Wutian Law Firm, Lawyer Cheng Hai, confirmed that he had taken part in the petition and that the following line from the petition summed up his view:
“This is a crime massively violating the rights of Chinese lawyers and citizens. It will largely undermine rule of law in China and if no legal action is taken to stop it and hold the offenders criminally accountable, then “rule of law in China” will only become empty rhetoric.”


Cheng has been one of the victims of dependent judiciary and he has shared with CLQ his year-long experience in fighting for the protection and independence of lawyers.

Rights lawyer Cheng Hai

 

Double standards for judges and lawyers

Rights lawyers represent different vulnerable groups in handling their lawsuits, yet, ironically, they are the most vulnerable group in the Chinese judicial system. Taking Cheng as an example, in 2014, he represented a fellow lawyer, who had been charged for his campaign calling on “the government officials to reveal their wealth”. His operation as a lawyer was obstructed by the procuratorate and court in Haidian District. When he protested against the secret trial, the presiding judge gave him a warning for “disturbing court order” and in the end he was disciplined by the Ministry of Justice and banned him from practicing for one year. The ban will last until 15 September 2015. As a profession, lawyers also need a trade union or a professional association to back them up. Can the All China Lawyers Association serve this purpose?

 

No organization to truly represent lawyers

“In China there are local lawyers associations and their charters state their responsibilities to protect lawyers’ rights. Their operations are funded by membership fees as well. However, the representatives of these associations have never been elected by members; some of them are even hostile to lawyers. I represented Chen Guancheng some years ago and the public security authority repressed me and illegally obstructed my operation as a lawyer. Yet, the lawyers association did nothing to help me.”


Lawyer Cheng believes that when the right time comes, lawyers should organize an organization to represent themselves. In 2008, he wrote an open letter to the Beijing Lawyers Association, demanding it to run direct elections and to reduce its membership fee by half. His petition was supported and co-signed by 35 lawyers and it pushed the Beijing Lawyers Association to run its first direct election in 2009. Since then, several other lawyers associations have started to revise their chapters and to run their election. Cheng reflects that, in general, lawyers are not very aware of their own rights and thus only a few of them have been defending themselves and it will take a longer time to achieve improvements.

 

The Ministry of Justice violates its yearly appraisal mechanism

As a Chinese lawyer, apart from losing his job and being put into prison for some “made-up crimes”, he has to renew his license at the Ministry of Justice each year. Many rights lawyers’ cannot get their licenses renewed, even though such an annual appraisal mechanism does not have legal grounds. Lawyer Cheng points out that the Law on Lawyers states that the annual appraisal should be done within the law firm and it does not require lawyers to have their licenses stamped by the Ministry of Justice each year. However, the majority of lawyers are afraid of violating the requirement of the Ministry of Justice, and the procuratorate and courts refuse to allow lawyers without the annual license from the Ministry to take up cases.
“In April 2015, I started a campaign, calling on lawyers to boycott such an annual licensing mechanism. 38 lawyers signed to support it but the rest did not dare to risk their license, as it might cost them the chance to defend others. If we could have more supporters, then such an illegal practice of a small group of people could not prevail.” Cheng commented.


Lawyer Cheng’s analysis explains how, for a rights lawyer, risks not only come from administrative obstacles or violent repression but also how the rights to work are restricted unjustifiably. The changes that Lawyer Cheng strives to bring about deserve more attention and support.

Unions from Asian countries show

26

Sep 2015

support to independent union movement in China and Hong Kong

The HKCTU calls on international unions to keep their faith

 

The HKCTU attended the International Trade Union Confederation’s Asia Pacific (hereafter: ITUC-AP) Regional General Council and proposed a resolution on China. The resolution urged the international unions to support Chinese workers’ struggles in improving labour conditions and trade union rights, to demand the Chinese Government release detained labour activists immediately and to genuinely implement all core labour standards as stated in the ILO conventions. Regarding Hong Kong, the General Council fully supported the Hong Kong trade unions’ quest for universal, fair and democratic elections. It also condemned the Hong Kong SAR Government in creating White Terror after the Umbrella Movement, by targeting activists, some of them unionists, with politically charged prosecutions.


At the same time, the Japanese Trade Union Confederation proposed another resolution, demanding the ITUC-AP continue implementing the ITUC’s China Policy, i.e. to facilitate in building the relations between sectoral Global Union Federations and the ACFTU. As a result, the General Council of the ITUC-AP combined the two proposed resolutions on China and passed them as one revised resolution.


Lee Cheuk-yan, the general secretary of the HKCTU has pointed out that the labour movement in Hong Kong and China has been enduring a hard time as political control is tightening. By passing this resolution, the ITUC AP showed the needed support to the workers. However, Lee believes that the ITUC-AP’s willingness to exchange with the ACFTU, is contradicting its position in supporting the independent labour movement. History has shown us that while dialogue with the official unions might not improve workers’ rights it will certainly be used for propaganda purpose. Lee reassured that the HKCTU would continue to inform the international community about the labour movement in Hong Kong and China, to promote advocacy and monitor multinational corporations in improving labour conditions.

 

The HKCTU delegation

 

Speech by Lee Cheuk-yan, general secretary of the HKCTU

Global campaign to support Chinese workers’

26

Sep 2015

Global campaign to support Chinese workers’ freedom of association and fight against violence

 

On the eve of the anniversary of the June Fourth Massacre, the HKCTU launched a series of campaigns calling on the Chinese Government to release detained labour activists and stop brutally repressing workers who are defending their rights.

It launched a global writing campaign with Labour Start and translated a petition into 18 languages. Over 10,000 supporters signed the petition (see below).

http://www.labourstartcampaigns.net/show_campaign.cgi?c=2743

 

During the anniversary of the June Fourth Massacre, the HKCTU collected signatures from Hong Kong citizens for this campaign and distributed 3,000 memorial fans. It also held a memorial service for Li Wangyang (a Chinese labour activist whose suspicious death caused an uproar in Hong Kong in 2012). Some 300 people attended (see picture).

The HKCTU vowed to get justice for the late Li Wangyang and condemned the Chinese Government for restricting the freedom of his family

Collecting signatures from the public in support of Chinese workers

Signature Campaign Appeal: Release All Imprisoned Labour Activists,

14

Jun 2015

Stop Violent Repression of Workers Fighting for Their Rights

 

 

As Chinese workers become aware of their legal rights, they are more militant in their struggles, which are also becoming more frequent. In the meantime, apart from forcing labour organisations to close down their offices, local governments are gradually turning to the use of violence and detention as repressive means against workers, who are often forced to accept resignation compensation which is much lower than what is stipulated in the law. In the first six months of 2015, there were at least three cases of labour disputes in which police broke into the venues where workers were meeting. They beat up and arbitrarily arrested staff of labour organisations and workers’ representatives. They were detained compulsorily for 1 to 20 days under the charge of “sabotaging production and operation”.  At least 7 labour activists are now in prison (see name list below). They were sentenced to either life or long-term imprisonment. There are also innumerable but undocumented or covered-up cases of labour activists who are detained or criminalized.

 

Since the second half of 2014, the Chinese government has been tightening its surveillance of mainland NGOs that receive overseas funding and are stifling the development of the civic society and the labour movement. The draft Foreign NGOs Management Law and the National Security Law will be reviewed by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress this year. The purpose of the new laws is to block mainland NGOs from building connection and receiving support from overseas. Under the new laws, Chinese people’s right to free association will be further curtailed.

 

The CTU calls upon the Chinese government to immediately:

1. Release all imprisoned labour activists and stop violent assault and repression targeting labour organisations and representatives of workers who are fighting for their rights;

2. Become a signatory of the No. 87 and No.98 International Labour Organisation Conventions which guarantee citizens’ right to organise trade unions and to collective bargaining, and to repeal the stringent measures imposed on mainland NGOs and safeguard citizens’ right to free association, as well as establishing the three labour rights;

3. Investigate rigorously any enterprise that makes profit by violating the rights of workers, and to enforce laws rigorously to safeguard workers’ rights.

 

Name

Occupation

Sex

Residence

Date of Detention

Cause of Detention

Penalty

Liu Jian

Electronic worker

male

Hunan

1989/mm/dd

Took part in a labour strike during which the workers allegedly ransacked the city government office when a worker died after being beaten up by security guards.

Life imprisonment

Zhu Fangming

Worker in a wheat flour mill plant

male

Hunan

1989/06/11

Organised independent trade unions in 1989

Life imprisonment

Jiang Cunde

Mechanical worker

male

Shanghai

1999/mm/dd

Advocated the organization of independent trade unions

20 years

Wang Miaogen

Factory manual worker

male

Shanghai

1999/05/dd

Detained in labour reform camps after organising independent trade union in 1989, he was later imprisoned.

Unknown

Xing 

Shiku

Former worker in state enterprise

male

Heilongjiang

2007/2/15

Held for petitioning to the State Bureau of Letters and Calls to protest violation of workers’ rights by the state enterprise

Imprisoned in a psychiatric hospital

Zhou 

Decai

Human rights activist

male

Henan

2012/02/28

Helped workers and peasants to safeguard their rights and monitored rural elections.

5 years

Liu 

Jianjun

Railway worker

male

Shanxi

2008/06/28

A labour activist and human rights advocate, Liu was imprisoned when he went to Beijing to petition.

Unknown

Source: ITUC/GUF Hong Kong Liaison Office (IHLO), The Dui Hua Foundation, Human Rights in China, etc.

 

 

The dignity of labour can only be materialized with your support!

Help us gain justice for workers  Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions bank account for receiving donations:
Hang Seng Bank 295-164578001
How many Li Wangyangs are there in the prisons of China?

14

Jun 2015

Editor’s note

The theme of this special edition  issue  is the struggles of the labour movement under authoritarian regimes. In Hong Kong, we have been trying to gain the support of the larger society to demand the immediate release of all imprisoned labour activists in China. We also demand that the Chinese government stop the violent repression and arbitrary detention of workers who are fighting to safeguard their rights. To learn from the experience of other countries, we have asked Dr. Chan Kalok, scholar and Civil Party legislator, to write about Solidarity, the Polish independent labour movement that fought against the dictatorial regime of the Soviet Union in the last century.  

 

How many Li Wangyangs are there in the prisons of China?

Li Wangyang 

Known as the “iron man of June 4th” -  was a labour activist from Hunan. He was imprisoned for 22 years during which he lost his sight and hearing and was paralysed in the legs due to torture. When he was interviewed by Cable TV in May, 2012, he said he never regretted taking part in the democratic movement. “For the actualization of a multi-party system in China, even if I were beheaded, I would not regret it.”

On June 6, a few days after the interview was broadcast, Li was found dead in the hospital under strange circumstances. The Chinese authorities claimed that he had committed suicide. Li’s story drew publicattention to the situation of imprisoned labour activists in China. The CTU appealed to trade unions and civic societies around the world to write to the President and the Premier of China to strongly demand an investigation into Li’s death and to immediately cease persecuting labour activists.

This issue features the stories of three other labour activists; Liu Jian, Wang Miaogen and Zhu Fangming, all still in prison because of their participation in the June 4 democratic movement. Please continue to fight for their release and political rehabilitation.

 

Liu Jian

In the aftermath of the Tiananmen Massacre, Liu Jian and Liu Zhihua (刘智华), workers at the Xiangtan Electrical Machinery Plant, Hunan Province, participated in a demonstration against the crackdown with some thousand other workers from the factory. A worker was seriously injured by a security guard in the action. The demonstrators then allegedly ransacked the home of the security section chief. Afterwards, Liu Jian and Liu Zhihua were sentenced to life imprisonment in either August or October 1989 on charges of “hooliganism” and “intentional injury.” No evidence of the alleged violence has been made public. Liu Jian is apparently the only one of the four detained Xiangtan Electrical Machinery Plant workers who has still not had his life prison term reduced to a fixed-term sentence.

In May 2009, Dui Hua noted that Liu was believed to be incarcerated but that he was no longer "imprisoned in Hunan Province." On June 1, 2009, Human Rights in China reported that Liu Jian is still in prison, but that his current detention location is unknown.

Wang Miaogen

The Shanghai Workers Autonomous Federation was formed in May, during the Democracy Movement in 1989,. Wang Miaogen, a manual worker in Shanghai, was a leading member of the independent union. In the aftermath of the Tiananmen Massacre, Wang spent two and a half years in police detention undergoing “re-education through labour” for his involvement in the banned workers’ group. In April 1993, after he committed an act of self-mutilation in front of a Shanghai police station in public protest against having recently been severely beaten up by the police, he was subsequently detained and then forcibly sent to the Shanghai Ankang Mental Hospital, a facility run by the Public Security Bureau to detain and treat mentally ill people.

Wang has been held incommunicado at the Shanghai Ankang now for more than 12 years and in custody for more than 16 years. Wang has no fixed release date.

 

Zhu Fangming

Zhu Fangming was a 28-year-old worker at Xihu Flour Factory in Hengyang City, Hunan Province during the 1989 Democracy Movement.  Zhu became the vice-chairman of the Hengyang City Workers Autonomous Federation. He organized demonstrations and took part in a sit-in in front of the municipal government offices. After the bloody crackdown, he allegedly led workers to the municipal Public Security Bureau to demand justice for the victims. He was sentenced in December 1989 by the Hengyang City Intermediate People’s Court to life imprisonment on a charge of “hooliganism”.

In October 2005, the Chinese government maintained that Zhu "was never punished" for his activities in 1989 and it stated that he is once again working at Xihu Flour Factory. However many groups continue to believe Zhu remains detained and is believed to be still held in Hengyang Prison (Hunan Provincial No.2 Prison).

The Labour Movement and Dictatorial Regimes Can Never Coexist

13

Jun 2015

Chan Kalok, Associate Professor at the Department of Government and International Studies of Hong Kong Baptist University, Legislative Councillor, member of Civil Party

 
According to the communist regimes of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, “the working class and the proletariat” were in charge in socialist societies.But in reality, the communist regimes had hijacked “democracy” in the name of  the “People’s Republic”. After they had seized power, the leaders of the communist parties completely  forgot their goal of liberating the oppressed. The first generation of revolutionary leaders replaced bottom-up grassroot democracy and decision making with totalitarian rule. Human dignity, individual rights and freedom were perpetually suppressed: personality cult, brainwashing education, official propaganda with only one voice, controlling and maneuvering the mass media, secret police, labour reform, concentration camps, violent suppression, embezzlement and corruption. To control the society, the dictators used both sticks and carrots to impose submission.

 

 

During the era of the Cold War, there was a black humour joke: “In the world of capitalism, trade unions and the labour movement are organized to safeguard workers’ interest, to fight against exploitation and to struggle with the bourgeoisie. In the world of communism, trade unions and the labour movement are part of the state machine that the communist parties use to dominate workers. In fact, trade unions have no more reason to exist!”  The communist parties sometimes claimed that the working class “was not completely awakened and the vanguard party must continue to lead”. At other times they claimed that the nature and the interest of the working class were “very apparent”. Since one could not dispute these claims, the result was always the same.  The May 1 parades in squares to celebrate the Labour Day were such shams. Other than singing praises to the communist parties and the communist leaders, participating organisations and their members never demanded any labour rights.

 

In capitalist Hong Kong, the death of Yeung Kwong, former president of the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, has aroused debates on his role in the1967 riot. Some commentators believed that he should be held responsible, but Ng Hongmun, a veteran in the Hong Kong communist camp, said he must “say something fair” for Yeung. According to him, the former leader of HKFTU was “following orders in all that he did”. He had no decision-making power and had to obey the New China News Agency in everything he did, be they big or small. He was a placid but also acquiescent person. It was because he was obedient that he was appointed the “leader” of the “Anti-British Anti-Violence Uprising”.

What is happening now in China and Hong Kong are actually similar to what happened in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. If anyone still believes that the trade unions and the labour movement dominated and controlled by the communist regime have their own free will and enjoy autonomy, he or she is impossibly naïve. In fact, a communist regime would never tolerate any trade union or labour movement that is independent of the communist party, the state and the totalitarian regime. The so-called freedom of speech and freedom of thought and action enjoyed by workers and trade unions is mere rhetoric. The trade unions and the labour movement have long been robbed of their right to voice their opinions.

 

Looking back on the history of the communist regimes of Europe, even though workers’ struggles were sporadic, any resolute struggle that workers undertook was treated as an act of sabotage or (counter)revolutionary activities. Even though workers had long been fighting for bread and freedom, in the face of the formidable and cold-blooded communist regimes, labour movements in Eastern Europe were often caught up in the cycle of “one step forward and then two steps backward”. Solidarity, the Polish trade union movement was joined not only by workers but also by all other Polish citizens. Over ten million people around the country took part in the movement. To counter the ruling regime’s usual tactics of “divide and rule”, the movement overcame differences among its participants in terms of class, social status, religions and other interests. It also kept reforming and improving its organization through practice. To force the Communist Party to negotiate with them on an equal basis, Solidarity occupied factories in 1980. When repression got worse, it went underground in 1982. In 1989, Solidarity became a political alliance that succeeded in overthrowing the communist regime. Through Solidarity the Polish people experienced democratic participation in an unprecedented way. After the extraordinary mobilization of citizens led by Solidarity and with the fall of the communist regime, the trade union leadership split up. Now the trade union no longer exercises the massive political influence it used to have. However, the role Solidarity played as the backbone of the struggle of the Polish people and its importance in Polish history is undoubtable.

 

 

As much as communist regimes frowned on democratic elections and multi-party systems, the form of struggles and resistance that the civil society assumed was also born from a desire for democracy and a multi-party system. It is of course not easy for any social movement to become a full-fledged people’s movement or to gain the influence that Solidarity enjoyed. The perseverance of the Polish people in differentiating truth from falsehood and right from wrong was definitely an important condition for the success of the movement. Aiming to build a humane society and refusing lies, they focused on gaining freedom from authoritarian rule and held fast to their belief in national autonomy, democracy and freedom. Solidarity’s organizing involved many aspects of work all of which were difficult and arduous. The Polish are polemicists and everyone wants to act in his or her own way.  However, after fighting with the communist regime over many years, they knew the cost they had to pay if they remain divided. They realized that it was absolutely necessary to safeguard the unity and integrity of Solidarity and to develop and organise the movement with an overall programme. Solidarity provided support and protection to all those who fought against the authoritarian regime, the collapse of which was accelerated because of such concerted effort.

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

12

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 media reported 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.

Police stormed into Artigas Clothing & Leatherware Factory in Shenzhen, on the 9th day of strike.

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?”

On 14 Oct 2014, nearly 1000 workers from Shanghai Gaojian Garment Ltd. launched a strike and blockade at Nanzhu Road, demanding their pension insurance.

When over 1000 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.

 

 
Wife of Yang Dongsheng wrote to the police, holding it accountable for possibly causing Yang’s health to deteriorate, by denying him family visits and medication.
 

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 Sunsang Accessories Co 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.

 

Peng Jiayong was assaulted and sent to hospital.

 

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.

Workers’ representatives demanded help from the
Labour Bureau, to claim back years of missing
social insurance and housing fund premiums,
compensation based on their years of services
from Fushan Arts & Crafts Co., Ltd.

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.

 

 

Feminist activists detained ahead of International Women’s Day

10

Jun 2015

Actions of Hong Kong organizations to call for the five feminists’ release.

 

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.

 

Wei Tingting Wang Man Li Tingting Zheng Churan Wu Rongrong

 

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.”


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.

 

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

10

Jun 2015

This article is written based on Qinyue's article namely, One Year Anniversary of the Yue Yuen Workers' Strike: What you should know" on "Voice of Hammer"

 

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

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.

Photos of Yue Yuen strike.

 

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

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.

 

The One-Year Anniversary of the Strike — Payment of Social Insurance Contribution Arrears

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.


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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