Stop the Violent Eviction of the Urban Poor; Respect the Housing Rights of the People
Stop the Violent Eviction of the Urban Poor; Respect the Housing Rights of the People
Labour rights activist Liu Shaoming, in detention since 2015, has been indicted of “inciting subversion of state power” for publishing online memoirs of his recollections of the 1989 pro-democracy movement. His trial will be held on July 7, 2017, according to his lawyer, Wu Kuiming. Liu Shaoming faces a 5-year sentence if found guilty. The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions and a number of Hong Kong based labour NGOs strongly protest the Chinese government’s repression of freedom of speech and call for Liu Shaoming’s immediate and unconditional release.
Liu Shaoming, 59, born in Jiangxi province, worked in a steel factory when he was young. During the 1989 pro-democracy movement, he joined China’s first independent union, the Beijing Workers' Autonomous Federation. Accused of “counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement” he was sentenced to one year in prison. During the two decades after his release, he worked as a porter, a factory handyman, a security guard, a gardener, a psychiatric caretaker, and a construction worker, experiencing the harsh life of a worker in China in his own flesh. In recent years, Liu Shaoming committed himself to China’s labour movement, helping workers organise themselves, particularly in Guangdong province, southern China, and has been detained by authorities over a dozen times for speaking his mind. In June 2014 Liu Shaoming organised in Guangzhou a lonely vigil commemorating the 25th anniversary of the June 4 massacre in Tiananmen Square: he was detained for 10 days for this. In May 2015, Liu Shaoming published online his “Memoirs of June 4”, a detailed first-person account of the events in Tiananmen Square, and not long after, on May 29, he was arrested. On July 14, 2015 he was indicted of “inciting subversion of state power”.
To this date, Liu Shaoming sustains his innocence, and for this he has been in detention for over 2 years, while his trial deliberately delayed. This constitutes not only a violation of his legal rights but also complete disregard for the interests of his family. During this time, he has been locked up with criminal offenders, his requests to be moved to a separate cell denied. During this prolonged detention, his health deteriorated: reports indicate that Liu Shaoming has been suffering from abdominal pain since October 2016. Liu Shaoming needs proper medical attention now, the negligence suffered by labour rights activist Li Wangyang and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Liu Xiaobo should not be repeated.
As a witness to the 1989 pro-democracy movement, Liu Shaoming told his story in an online memoir; as a labour rights activist, Liu Shaoming helped workers organise in their demands for their fair share. Liu Shaoming is innocent! There is no freedom of speech in China, there is no freedom of association in China: the Communist Party of China is retaliating against his activism. Freedom of speech is not a crime, immediately and unconditionally release Liu Shaming now!
1_Immediate and unconditional release of Liu Shaoming
2_Withdrawal of all criminal charges against Liu Shaoming
3_Provison of proper medical attention for Liu Shaoming
July 5, 2017
Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions
China Labour Bulletin
Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour
Labour Action China
Labour Education and Service Network
Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China
Neighbourhood and Worker's Service Centre
League of Social Democrats
Asia Monitor Resource Centre
Photo Source: VOA
May 16, 2017
The past month has seen a series of protests by exploited Chinese migrant laborers in Saipan for their wages and work injury compensation. They labored on the $500 million casino project by Hong Kong-based Imperial Pacific International Holdings Limited, whose contractors included some of the biggest mainland contractors—the state-run China Metallurgical Group (MCC), Nanjing Beilida New Material System Engineering, and Suzhou Gold Mantis Construction Decoration. But they received treatment that was inhumane and illegal.
After many workers paid thousands of U.S. dollars for the opportunity to work in Saipan, based on promises of high wages and good conditions, these contractors paid even less than Saipan’s minimum wage of $6.55. Some workers were not paid at all. They were given food with live worms in it and put in dorms that violated housing standards. Working shifts that lasted 13 or more hours per day, injuries were a frequent occurrence—burnt limbs, crushed fingers, even death. But the companies never took many of these workers to see a doctor and, if they did, forced the worker to pay himself. No insurance was purchased for these workers and no compensation has been offered.
Imperial Pacific and its contractors must take responsibility for this inhumane, illegal treatment. One contractor, MCC, has reached a settlement with the U.S. Department of Labor to pay some of its workers after it was caught red-handed holding their passports. Gold Mantis also recently reached a settlement with workers for unpaid wages. However, despite their stated “humanitarian” concern for the workers and delivery of cigarettes, not a penny of compensation has been paid for injuries on the job. Despite a government investigation into its labor practices, and the arrest of two of its managers, Beilida still has not paid its hundreds of workers the minimum wage required by law.
Although Imperial Pacific “denounced” this abuse of workers by its contractors, this is clearly insufficient. Hundreds of exploited workers remain uncompensated. Thus, we demand Imperial Pacific and the related contractors to take immediate actions to:
Hong Kong Confederation of Unions
You Can Take Action Too:
Selected Media Coverage:
Video: Who Will Compensate Me?
Emmanuel T. Erediano, Gold Mantis breaks silence; Imperial Pacific ‘denounces’ contractors’ illegal acts, Marianas Variety, May 1, 2017.
Saipan casino workers protest for payment as FBI cites illegal labor, Reuters, April 14, 2017.
Last month, McDonald’s announced the sale of the majority of its China and Hong Kong business to CITIC Ltd and Carlyle Group LP for a reported $2.08 billion.
The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) has concerns about the company’s announced plans, given McDonald’s track record in Asia and given issues with its franchise model all over the world. McDonald’s proposed model for China and Hong Kong is similar to arrangements around the globe—from Japan to Brazil— and given the company’s track record, we believe the proposed joint venture with CITIC and Carlyle is not in the best interest of McDonald’s workers in Hong Kong.
Through our global alliances with unions like the Service Employees International Union, HKCTU has come to understand that when McDonald’s exits a market or sells a large stake of its business, the resulting model puts enormous pressure on franchisees, which makes it harder for franchisees to provide adequate pay and conditions for their workers.
Recent news reports in CNBC.com and CBN Daily and etnet, to name a few, highlight some of SEIU’s concerns facing the China/Hong Kong transaction, and we share those concerns—especially with regard to how removing local franchisees and replacing them with large corporations could negatively affect workers.
McDonald’s is already a low-wage employer in Hong Kong and often pays the minimum wage as a starting salary. Only seven percent of McDonald’s workers are paid HK$34 or more—and those workers work in the company’s busiest locations. When the buyers and franchisees get squeezed by McDonald’s, workers may get even less as a result.
The HKCTU, which was founded in July 1990, consists of more than 90 affiliates and represents more than 170,000 members. The HKCTU is completely independent from any regime, political party, or consortium. For several years, it has been part of a global alliance of trade unions working to hold McDonald’s accountable everywhere it operates. We have attended global conferences, participated in global days of action and welcomed global union leaders to Hong Kong in our effort to shine a light on how McDonald’s is driving a race to the bottom around the world.
The troubling franchise model McDonald’s announced for China and Hong Kong is in use elsewhere and puts enormous tremendous cost and operational pressures onto its licensees. The model has translated into financial and operational problems, poor returns for the shareholders of the buyers, conflict and neglect for the small business owners that operate McDonald’s stores around the world, and poor working conditions for McDonald’s employees.
McDonald’s benefits from a stable and increasing stream of profits in the form of royalties—which in the case of the China and Hong Kong deal are reported to be at least six percent— while exposing its local partners to the operational and financial risks of the business. More and more money is sent out of places like Hong Kong and to Chicago, where McDonald’s executives and shareholders can pad their bank accounts.
One need look no further than Japan, where a similar joint venture model is in operation, to see the risks the deal poses for workers in Hong Kong. The model ensures that McDonald’s can maintain a high level of control over the every aspect of operations through both an equity stake in the business and strict contractual arrangements, while transferring most of the risks and capital requirements to the local operator.
In Japan, McDonald’s earned an estimated $90 million in royalties in 2015,i at the same time as McDonald’s Japan posted a $290 million net lost. The company’s Japan venture has seen years of declining store counts and sales and has faced food safety issues that damaged its brand. The model is challenging because McDonald’s wears two hats---large investor and franchisor, requiring it to manage the needs of different sets of share owners and other stakeholders.
McDonald’s move to unload its business in Latin America has been a disaster for workers. The sale to a team of investors led by company insider Woods Staton, which created Arcos Dorados, has led to mismanagement, questionable corporate governance, declining sales and a plummeting stock price—resulting in escalating labor conflicts in Brazil, the company’s most important Latin American market.
Last December, the National Labor Prosecution Service hit McDonald’s with a $30 million fine—the largest it’s ever imposed on a single company— for repeatedly and continuously breaking Brazilian labor law, flouting a consent decree the company entered into with authorities in 2013 to settle a suit charging rampant workplace violations. The Labor Prosecutor found Arcos did not give workers breaks, provide adequate time off between shifts or provide a day off per week, as required by Brazilian law. The company also required more than two hours of overtime per day in violation of the country’s labor law.
Experiences elsewhere sound a cautionary note for workers in Hong Kong and HKCTU urges all stakeholders to examine this deal and its potential negative effects on workers closely.
i It is estimated that McDonald’s Japan and its franchisees pay a royalty of three percent of sales. Report from Japanese attorneys, Chapter 7: Translated Taxes and Accounting
ii McDonald’s Japan Financial Report, 2015, http://www.mcd-holdings.co.jp/english/financial/result.html
Three Guangdong labour activists - Zeng Feiyang, Zhu Xiaomei, and Tang Huanxing, who were arrested by Chinese police on 3 December 2015 - will stand trial on charges of “gathering a crowd to disturb social order” on 26 - 28 September in the Panyu district court in Guangzhou. Meng Han, who was arrested with them, remains detained in Guangzhou Detention Centre No. 1. Local prosecutors sent his case back a second time to the police for further investigation, and a hearing for him has yet to be set.
In the December arrests, more than 50 labour activists were taken in for questioning, and seven were detained or disappeared. Those seven spent long periods in detention, and were unable to meet with their lawyers. Lawyers authorized by family members of the detained went to the detention center asking to meet their clients, but the lawyers were often denied on the grounds that they needed the approval of the police authorities investigating the case; sometimes they were not even given any reason or documentation. Of those detained, Zeng Feiyang was not able to see his lawyer until six months after his arrest, and was the subject of a smear campaign by official media. In addition, the family members of those arrested have to this day been subjected to surveillance, physical threats, and verbal intimidation.
Since 2015, mainland China’s civil society has faced frequent repression, with several large-scale arrests of rights defence lawyers, and women's rights and labour activists. Recently, Communist Party authorities held a series of political trials of those arrested. In August of this year, four rights defence lawyers - Zhou Shifeng, Hu Shigen, Gou Hongguo, and Zhai Yanmin - were charged with "subversion of state power" and given prison sentences ranging from three to seven years. On September 22, the Beijing lawyer Xia Lin, who has defended many activists (including Ai Weiwei, Pu Zhiqiang, and Tan Zuoren), was sentenced to 12 years in prison for fraud. Chinese courts have become the Chinese Communist Party's tool for political repression, piling on various offences to prosecute activists and deprive them of their civil rights.
Similarly, we believe the actions of the Guangzhou police have trampled on the principles of justice and law and the basic human rights of those arrested, and seriously violated current domestic law. Article 11 of the International Declaration of Human Rights clearly states all those subject to criminal prosecution have the right to obtain adequate defence. Article 14.3 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights guarantees the right of those facing criminal prosecution the right to contact a lawyer of their own choosing in the preparation of a defense. The meaning of the phrase "of their own choosing" is that the accused should make the choice of their own free will, and not under threat or force. The [United Nations] Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment expressly provides that a detainee should have the right to assistance in obtaining legal counsel, and the right to communicate and consult with legal counsel. Article 125 of the People's Republic of China Constitution states: "the accused have the right to defense." Article 14 of the People's Republic of China Criminal Procedure Law states: "the public security organs shall safeguard the procedural rights to which participants in proceedings are entitled according to law". Article 33 of the Criminal Procedure Law states that for a “defendant in custody, his or her guardian or close relative may retain a defender on his or her behalf.”
Today three labour activists stand trial. In light of the actions taken since last December by Guangzhou police in committing multiple violations of the rights of the detained, and monitoring and harassing their family members, we issue the following public statement:
1. When the legal rights of workers have been violated, it is natural for them to self-organize and seek out social support. Even though they caused losses for the factory, this does not constitute "gathering a crowd to disturb social order". The rights of workers to freedom of association and collective bargaining should be respected; workers and labour activists have committed no crime in defending the rights of labour.
2. The Ministry of Public Security should carry out its supervisory responsibilities and instruct the Guangzhou police to follow the aforementioned national laws and international conventions recognized by the Chinese government, protect the rights of the four accused to an effective defence and to freely appoint a lawyer, and to protect the rights of the families of the accused to appoint a lawyer and prepare an adequate defence until the end of the trial.
3. The Guangzhou Municipal People's Procuratorate and the Supreme People's Procuratorate should carry out their legal supervisory responsibilities, curb the illegal actions of the public authorities in this case, and make a record of and investigate those who have violated the law and bring them to justice.
4. We are watching the situation closely, and demand an immediate end to the political prosecution of the staff of these labour organizations, and their immediate release.
Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions
Labour Education and Service Network
Labour Action China
Red Balloon Editorial Committee
Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour
China Labour Bulletin
Asia Monitor Resource Centre
September 26, 2016
16th July, 2016
Guangdong labour activists Zeng Feiyang, Meng Han, Zhu Xiaomei and Tang Huanxing, who were arrested by Chinese police on 3rd December, 2015, were charged with “disturbing social order” by the People’s Procuratorate of Panyu District, Guangzhou Municipality in June and will be on trial in the near future.
In the December incident, more than 50 activists were interrogated and seven were detained or went missing. This prosecution is part of President Xi's crackdown on labour activists and gravely threatens the survival of civil society in China. The detained were denied the right to meet with their lawyers. Relatives of the detained appointed lawyers to meet with the activists in detention, but police turned down their requests, either claiming that the activists had already hired their defense lawyers or without providing any reasons or documentary proof at all. Zeng Feiyang was not allowed to see his lawyer for six months and in the meantime was slandered in government controlled media. Worse yet, relatives of activists have been surveilled in their homes, violently harassed or verbally threatened.
We believe that the Guangdong police’s actions trampled on the judicial principles of fairness and justice, violated the basic rights of the activists, and seriously violated domestic Chinese law. Article 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence”; Article 14 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that arrested persons have the right to “defend himself in person or through legal assistance of his own choosing”. “Own choosing” must be an autonomous decision made by the persons involved without threats, coercion or capitulation. The Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment expressly stipulate that any detained person “shall be entitled to have the assistance of a legal counsel” and “communicate and consult with his legal counsel.” The Constitution of People’s Republic of China states that “the accused has the right to defence”. Article 14 of the Criminal Procedure Law of the People’s Republic of China states that “the public security organs shall safeguard the procedural rights to which participants in court proceedings are entitled according to law.” Article 33 states that “he or his close relatives may file an application with the legal aid agency for help.”
International society will not forget the arrested activists. The four labour activists are now going to trial. On account of the violations of the arrested activists’ basic rights and the harassment and surveillance of their families by the Guangdong Police, we make the following public statement:
1. It is legitimate for workers to defend their rights and seek social support when their rights are undermined. Even if this induces losses for a factory, the workers are not guilty of “disturbing public order”. Workers’ have rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining, which should be respected. Their actions to defend their rights should not be considered crimes.
2. The Ministry of Public Security should act on its responsibilities for oversight and ensure Guangdong police protect the four activists’ rights in accordance with the abovementioned international covenants and domestic laws, which are recognized by the PRC government. The arrested persons’ rights to access effective assistance, to freely choose their own legal counsel, and to have the legal counsel appointed by their relatives fully exercise the right to defend them through to the end of the trail must be protected.
3. The People’s Procuratorate of Guangzhou Municipality and the Supreme People's Procuratorate should fulfill their judicial obligations of oversight by refusing to tolerate any illegal behaviour in this case. Anyone abusing their power in this case should be investigated and punished according to law.
4. We, concerned members of civil society, will closely monitor this case. We demand that this politically motivated case be dropped and all labour right activists must be released immediately.
Asia Monitor Resource Centre
China Labour Bulletin
The editorial committee of Red Balloon Solidarity
Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions
Labour Action China
Labour Education and Service Network
Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior
Worker Zōu yú
Toys made by Mizutani workers
Workers who worked for Mizutani for years and their requests was shown on the paper.
To download the full report, please click "Download File" below
Some 30 members of the HKCTU, GM and other labour organizations met at Western Police Station on 6 Feb (two days before the Chinese New Year) and marched to the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in Hong Kong. They shouted slogans such as “Protest against suppression of labour activists in Guangdong”, “Stop political pressure, defending labour rights is not a crime”, “Immediate release of Zeng Feiyang / He Xiaobo / Meng Han”. When they reached the back entrance of the Liaison Office, representatives from the trade union, labour / civil society organizations made their speech. They demanded the Chinese Government to release Zeng Feiyang, He Xiaobo, Meng Han and other labour activists, so that they could go home for Chinese New Year. They also urged the Chinese Government to stop suppressing labour rights and violating human rights.
Lee Cheuk-yan, General Secretary of the HKCTU reflected that the HKCTU had drafted a complaint and would be discussing it with the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), to make a formal compliant at the International Labour Organization (ILO) against Chinese Government. It would demand the Chinese Government and All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) to publicly answer for their suppression of freedom of association and political detention of labour activists in Guangdong. Lee explained that complaining at the international community might not bring immediate results, but it can still pose some constraints on the Chinese Government and make it embarrassed, which indirectly protects the labour activists who are being suppressed. After the protestors have read their demands, they gave a pot of dumplings and glutinous rice balls to the Liaison Office , as they wished the labour activists would be released immediately and return home to celebrate Chinese New Year, the most important Chinese New Year with their families.
Since 3 December 2015, political suppression of labour activists has been going on in Guangdong. Until now, three of them are still being detained, i.e. Zeng Feiyang, director of Panyu Migrant Workers Centre and his ex-co-worker Meng Han, He Xiaobo, director of Nan Fei Yan Social Work Services Organization. The procuratorate has approved to arrest them and charge them with “inciting a crowd to disturb social order” and “embezzlement of duties”. The authority has denied their lawyers’ application to meet them. The authority even “delivered fake message”, urging their families not to get lawyers to represent them. It got caught lying when a fellow detainee, told He Xiaobo’s wife that He asked him to tell her to insist in getting a lawyer. Another labour activist, Liu Shaoming was charged with “inciting subversion of state power” and has been detained since mid-2015. Another four activists who were detained on 3 Decemeber 2015, have been released in the last one month. They are Panyu Migrant Workers Centre’s Zhu Xiaomei and ex-staff Tang Jing, Peng Jiayong of Panyu-based Laborer Mutual Aid Group and Deng Xiaoming of Guangzhou Haige Workers’ Services Centre. For more details, please visit the facebook page of “Free Chinese Labour Activists Now!” https://www.facebook.com/freechineselabouractivists
Today (21 December) marks the launch of the global call for action in solidarity with the detained labour activists in China. As of now, international trade unions including the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), IndustriALL, French Democratic Confederation of Labour (CDFT), E-TU from New Zealand, Cape Verde Confederation of Free Trade Unions (CCSL), Alliance of Progress Labour from the Philippines (APL) and Belarusian Congress Of Democratic Trade Unions (BKDP) have sent letters to the Chinese government expressing their concerns over the recent arrests of labour activists in Guangdong Province. In Geneva, the International Union of Food Workers (IUF) is planning a protest in front of the Chinese embassy. More solidarity actions from trade unions around the world are expected. Labour organizations from Britain, France, Denmark and India have organized protests at the Chinese embassies in their respective countries to demand the immediate release of the activists being held by the Chinese government. Labour rights NGOs from Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Finland, Japan, Indonesia, Taiwan, Latin America and the United States (Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle) have also carried out a photo campaign in response to the global solidarity action. All protest photos will be delivered directly to the Chinese government via email.
About 50 representatives from the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions and other labour rights organizations from Hong Kong are also joining the league in support of the global action by staging a protest march starting from the Western District Police Station at 2：30PM 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. Following the protest action, the organizers set up a street booth to run a ‘one-person-one-photo’ campaign outside the SOGO department store in Causeway Bay at 4:00PM. We would invite the public supporters to upload their photos onto their own as well as the “Free Chinese labour activists now” facebook page.
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, although the criminal detention notice is not yet issued. Activist Tang Jian is also known to be taken away by the police, but his location and charges are unclear. The police has continued to harass and intimidate the family members and friends of the detained activists and prevented them from giving media interviews. In May 2015, Guangzhou Public Security Bureau detained labour activist Liu Shaoming and denied his rights to meet with his lawyer, quoting that he has been charged with “inciting subversion of state power”.
This is the largest coordinated crackdown targeting labour rights activists in recent years, following the arrest of five women rights activists in March and the nationwide crackdown against human rights lawyers in July. As shown in these political crackdowns, the Chinese government is tightening its grip on civil society in the country.
The organizers set up a street booth to run a ‘one-person-one-photo’ campaign outside the SOGO department store in Causeway Bay to call for public concern and support on the detained Chinese Labour Activists
For more details, please refer to: https://www.facebook.com/freechineselabouractivists/
Hypocritical CSR Policy Harsh Exploitation on Workers
Unveiling UNIQLO’s labour rights violations on its tenth anniversary celebration
Today (26 November 2015) is the final day of the tenth anniversary celebration of UNIQLO Hong Kong. 20 representatives from Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU), Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM), Labour Action China (LAC) and other labour rights concern groups staged a protest at UNIQLO’s flagship store in Lee Theatre, Causeway Bay. They condemned UNIQLO to fool consumers with propaganda, and its negligence on various labour rights violations in its suppliers.
The groups held placards to denounced UNIQLO for allowing its suppliers to exploit workers, including suppress workers’ rights defending actions, illegal termination of worker representatives, use of hazardous chemicals during production, failed to pay workers’ statutory social insurance premiums and housing provident fund. Workers are also asked to do extremely long working hours for low wages. The groups shouted, “UNIQLO, made for all except its workers”, “shame on UNIQLO to suppress its workers”, and urged UNIQLO to rectify the above violations.
HKCTU stated that a strike was staged in Artigas factory in June 2015, whose parent company is Lever Style Inc - one of the key suppliers of UNIQLO. During the strike, workers were suppressed and the worker representatives were dismissed. Wu Weihua, one of the worker representatives was even detained for four months. The factory illegally dismissed her without paying any statutory compensation, which seriously violated the labour rights. HKCTU claimed a group of 57 workers were illegally dismissed and a lawsuit between the workers and Lever Style Inc. is undergoing to fight for justice and a reasonable compensation for workers. HKCTU considers that Fast Retailing, as a key buyer of Lever Style Inc. and the parent company of UNIQLO, should proactively intervene in this illegal dismissal and ensure Lever Style Inc. to pay reasonable compensation to the workers.
Five crimes of UNIQLO- 1.Illegal termination of worker representatives, 2. Use of hazardous chemicals during production, 3. Suppress workers’ rights defending actions, 4. Failed to pay workers’ statutory social insurance premiums and housing provident fund 5. Supplier factory workers suffered from extremely long working hours with low wages.
Meanwhile, SACOM launched the second investigative report on UNIQLO’s suppliers in mainland China to raise consumers’ awareness on the labour rights exploitations behind UNIQLO’s significantly huge profit. SACOM has investigated four of UNIQLO’s production partners since 2014 and found a number of labour rights violations. The factories concealed information of chemicals used during the production process, failed to provide workers with sufficient protective equipment and trainings on working safety, putting workers’ health in danger. During peak seasons, the overtime working hours could reach to 176 hours per month, which is far beyond the maximum requirement of 36 hours by the Chinese Labour Law. Moreover, workers were paid a fixed piece rate, which means they do not have neither overtime pay nor a basic wage that meets the minimum wage requirement of the region. SACOM also found the investigated factories have failed to pay the housing provident fund and social insurance premiums for workers in accordance to the Chinese Labour Law. The factories even provided false information and fake documents during social audits and the management abetted workers in lying to auditors. The above violations suggest that UNIQLO has failed to take its corporate social responsibility and its claim to monitor carefully on its suppliers is merely for public relations purpose and playing with words.
No representatives of UNIQLO rceived the statement. HKCTU and other labour groups therefore put the statement on the big screen at the end of the action.
The labour groups also disseminated leaflets with details of UNIQLO’s labour rights violations to consumers in the store as part of public education.
The labour groups demand UNIQLO to:
1) proactively intervene in the illegal dismissal of Artigas workers and ensure Lever Style Inc. to pay the reasonable compensation to the workers;
2) monitor its suppliers to pay wage and overtime pay in accordance with China Labour Law; and,
3) ensure its suppliers to pay workers the statutory social insurance premiums and house providing fund;
4) disclose the full list of suppliers and chemicals which are used in the production process to protect the occupational health of workers and public’s right to know.
Demand Toothless HKEx for Forcing Public Listed Companies to Compulsory Disclose More CSR Information
Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) and Labour Action China (LAC) held a press conference this morning. Both organizations have demanded Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing (HKEx) to make the disclosure of information related to labor rights mandatory for all Hong Kong listed companies. In response to the HKEx’s recent consultation on the Review of the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Reporting Guide, the executive director of HKCTU Mr Mung Shiu-tat said, “this public consultation is done in the black box by HKEx and the listed companies. Although HKEx has recommended information relating to employment and labor standards raised to ‘comply or explain’ from ‘recommended disclosure’, HKEx does not explain what would be the consequences if a listed company fails to follow suit. It is utterly window dressing. Workers, general publics and investors ought to know the corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices of those listed companies because they are stakeholders too”.
A former trade union representative of Kwoon Chung Motors, Mr Wong Hin Wai, was invited. Mr Wong stated that there was no pay rise in a decade. He was sacked for representing his fellows in a negotiation with the company. But Kwoon Chung Motors never discloses how they treated their employees to the public.
A victim of suspected occupational diseases works for Hwa Sun (Guangdong), a subsidiary of Johnson Electric, was there to talk about his leukemia due to the violation of OSH regulations. Likewise, Johnson Electric failed to disclose these OSH problems, as well as the potential risk caused by these violations.
Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions and Labour Action China
Our Recommendations to the Consultation on the Review of the Environmental, Social and Governance Reporting Guide
Information of Hong Kong listed companies are related to the public interest and hence it should be transparent for public scrutiny and protection of investors interests. Exchanges around the world are continuing to improve the transparency on environmental, social and governance (ESG) of listed companies in recent years. In July 2015, Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited (HKEx) proposed a consultation paper (consultation paper) on the Review of Environmental, Social and Governance Reporting Guide.
Just as mentioned in the Overview of the consultation paper, “[t]he Guide was intended to be the first step in an evolutionary process, with the longer term goal of achieving better and more comprehensive ESG reporting amongst our issuers”. HKCTU and LAC believe what are recommended in this consultation paper could not be served to achieve this long-term objective. Therefore, we recommend:
1. “Comply or explain” is not suffice to force listed companies to disclose information
If an issuer deviates from the ESG Guide, it must provide a reasonable explanation under the so-called "comply or explain" approach. In 2005, the London School of Economics conducted a research to examine this approach affected the quoted companies floating on London Stock Exchange. The findings found that companies would only provide poor explanations for their non-compliance. What is more, one in every five cases of non-compliance would not give any explanation at all.
This fully illustrates that the listed companies would abuse this flexibility in order to avoid the disclosure of ESG information deliberately. Meanwhile, the consultation paper failed to elaborate how this approach could encourage more listed companies to disclose ESG information. In contrast, HKEx admitted that “many issuers are waiting for the recommended disclosures of the ESG Guide to be upgraded to “comply or explain” before they begin to report”. (para 72, Consultation Paper) HKEx understands thoroughly that listed companies might not voluntarily disclose ESG information unless there is such a specified regulation.
Mandatory disclosure is the trend in global financial market
In fact, a number of financial markets have made ESG disclosure mandatory. Shanghai and Shenzhen stock exchanges have already done it in 2009. Singapore Exchange (SGX) announced in October 2014 that sustainability reporting for listed companies is mandatory in the near future. Similarly, all quoted companies in the United Kingdom are subjected to disclose information on greenhouse gas emission, human rights, gender diversity.
Most Hong Kong Investors Favor Mandatory Disclosure of ESG Information
Oxfam Hong Kong has interviewed 42 institutional investors including note-issuing banks, assets management and insurance companies, more than 85% of the respondents said that ESG factors are taken into account at the time of investment; nearly 65% even said that HKEx should force listed companies to disclose ESG information and the government should legislate it.
2. Insufficient Information on Employment and Labour Relations under the Current Guide
We believe that the disclosed information on employment and labour relations is insufficient under the current Guide. Labour relations are significant to business operations. If labour relations is not properly dealt with by an enterprise or its subcontractors / suppliers, it would have a negative impact on its shareholders and other stakeholders.
Taking the 40 days’ strikes of Hongkong International Terminals (HIT) in 2013 as an example. It was caused by HIT failing to intervene the disputes on wage and labour conditions of its outsourcing providers, which led to its loss of $100 million, as estimated by Citibank, as well as the damage of its public image. Hutchison Whampoa Limited merely mentioned 1% loss to the container throughput in its 2013 annual report, but it did not specify the actual loss caused by this strike.
Moreover, the rights to the freedom of association and collective bargaining are fundamental to CSR on labour standards. Enterprises must guarantee itself, its outsourcing providers / suppliers in line with international labor standards, and work in good faith with unions and worker representatives in collective bargaining.
Enterprises are required to disclose information relating to labor standards and labor relations in many jurisdictions. In the United Kingdom, medium-sized enterprises and large corporations must disclose information about employee participation in corporate affairs in their board of directors’ reports. The Australian also encourage corporate disclosure on the sustainability in economic, environmental and social affairs in reference to the UN treaties and OECD guidelines. Shanghai and Shenzhen stock exchanges require listed companies to disclose information relating to the protection of workers’ rights.
Therefore, we believe that HKEx should refer to ILO conventions and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises to enrich the disclosure requirements on labor rights and labor relations. For the Employment and Labor Standards and Operating Practices, more information of labor standards and labor relations should be added and covered its subsidiaries and suppliers. Specific amendments in the following aspects are as follows (Proposed amendments refer to table):
A. Aspect B1: Employment
Good benefits and working conditions can increase employees' sense of belonging, but can also minimize labor disputes. It can ensure enterprises to focus on business development. Therefore, we propose to add KPI “B1.3: Total workforce by bands of monthly salary and weekly working hours” and “B1.4: Total workforce by forms of employment (permanent contracts, short-term contracts, part-time, agency)”.
B. Aspect B2: Health and Safety
At present, the Guide requires the disclosure of the number and percentage of deaths related to work, as well as the number of working days lost due to work-related injury. It is not enough to help the public to understand the OSH policies and measures. We recommend including the disclosure of the list and inventory of potentially hazardous substances or equipment, and how the protective measures are provided in the general disclosure. Also we recommend to add KPIs on "Total number of cases by different categories of work-related injuries and occupational diseases" and "The rate of accident in every 1000 workers."
C. Aspect B4: Labour Standards
Four ILO core values are the elimination of forced labor, the abolition of child labor, the equality of opportunity and treatment, the freedom of association and collective bargaining. However, the proposed Guide on labor standards cover only the general disclosure and KPIs of child and forced labor, but the other two cores are missing.
As mentioned, employment relations are essential to business development. The protection of the rights to collective bargaining is core to normal labor relations. According to the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises,
1) Respect the rights of employees to establish or join trade unions and representative organizations of their own choosing, and initiate collective bargaining;
2) Provide necessary facilities and information to employee representatives in order to assist in reaching effective collective bargaining
3) On major business change, particularly to the case of collective dismissal or severance, workers representatives and organization must be informed
Therefore, we recommend the addition of “Information on (a) the policies; and (b) compliance with relevant laws and regulations that have significant impact on the issuer relating to the protection of the freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining" to the Aspect of Labour Standards. Also, we suggest to add KPI “B4.3: Forms, frequency and effectiveness in communicating with employee representatives and staff organization".
On the equality of opportunity and treatment, it is recommended to add“Information on (a) the policies; and (b) compliance with relevant laws and regulations that have significant impact on the issuer relating to the elimination of discrimination on employment” to the general disclosure in Aspect B4: Labour Standards. KPIs “B4.4: Total workforce (managerial and professional) by gender and nationality” and “B4.5: Total number of senior management by gender and nationality”.
D. Aspect B5: Supply Chain Management
Transnational corporations are increasingly dependent on their supply chain under the fierce of globalization. These suppliers might have negative environmental and social impacts to the listed corporations. For instance, Yue Yuen’s Dongguan plants was discovered for social insurance arrears, which led to an industrial action last year. Yue Yuen Industrial is the supplier for numerous well-known international brands, such as, Nike and Adidas. These strikes are certainly having a negative impact to the production and image of those transnational corporations. But the proposed recommendations is not suffice for public scrutiny on those suppliers.
Therefore, we recommend to modify KPI B5.1 to “the list of suppliers and their address by geographical region” and to add KPI “B5.3: Total violations of relevant labour regulations and international labor standards in the host State by suppliers”
3. A Clear Punishment Mechanism for Failing to Follow the Guide
HKEx should formulate a punishment mechanism to deal with any listed company for failing to comply with the Guide. Even when there is a requirement for mandatory disclosure, this Guide would be rendered toothless where punishment is not available. If HKEx is genuine to better reporting, laying out a set of penalties can give listed companies a clear message. We propose to amend the Listing Rules and prescribe penalties, including the issue of reprimand or a public statement, suspension or delisting and other reasonable and proportionate measures.
Apart from our feedback to this Consultation Paper, we hope HKEx can consider strengthening the regulation to listed companies, their subsidiaries and suppliers, and hence punishing those enterprises for violating labor laws of Hong Kong or elsewhere. Our recommendations are as follows:
18 September 2015
Appendix Proposed New Guide in the Consultation Paper (Only Aspects B1 to B5 are listed, our recommendations are in italics and underlined
Aspect B1 Employment
relating to compensation and dismissal, recruitment and promotion, working hours, rest periods, equal opportunity, diversity, anti-discrimination, and other benefits and welfare
KPI B1.1 Total workforce by gender, employment type, age group and geographical region
KPI B1.2 Employee turnover rate by gender, age group and geographical region
KPI B1.3 Total workforce by bands of monthly salary and weekly working hours
KPI B1.4 Total workforce by forms of employment (permanent contracts, short-term contracts, part-time, agency)
Aspect B2 Health and Safety
relating to providing a safe working environment and protecting employees from occupational hazards.
KPI B2.1 Number and rate of work-related fatalities.
KPI B2.2 Lost days due to work injury.
KPI B2.3 Total number of cases by different categories of work-related injuries and occupational diseases
KPI B2.4 The rate of accident in every 1000 workers
KPI B2.5 Description of occupational health and safety measures adopted, how they are implemented and monitored
Aspect B3 Development and Training
General Disclosure Policies on improving employees’ knowledge and skills for discharging duties at work. Description of training activities.
Note: Training refers to vocational training. It may include internal and external courses paid by the employer.
KPI B3.1 The percentage of employees trained by gender and employee category (e.g. senior management, middle management)
The average training hours completed per employee by gender and employee category.
Aspect B4 Labour Standards
(a) the policies; and
(b) compliance with relevant laws and regulations that have a significant impact on the issuer
relating to preventing child and forced labour
(b) Information on:
the policies; and
(b) compliance with relevant laws and regulations that have a significant impact on the issuer relating to the protection of the freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining
Information on (a) the policies; and (b) compliance with relevant laws and regulations that have significant impact on the issuer relating to the elimination of discrimination on employment
KPI B4.1 Description of measures to review employment practices to avoid child and forced labour.
KPI B4.2 Description of steps taken to eliminate such practices when discovered.
KPI B4.3 Description of Forms, frequency and effectiveness in communicating with employee representatives and staff organization
KPI B4.4 Total workforce (managerial and professional) by gender and nationality
KPI B4.5 Total number of senior management by gender and nationality
Aspect B5 Supply Chain Management
General Disclosure Policies on managing environmental and social risks of the supply chain
KPI B5.1 The list of suppliers and their address by geographical region (Original: Number of suppliers by geographical region.)
KPI B5.2 Description of practices relating to engaging suppliers, number of suppliers where the practices are being implemented, how they are implemented and monitored
KPI B5.3 Total violations of relevant labour regulations and international labor standards in the host State by suppliers
20 July 2015
Taking social responsibilities is not talking without ACTION:
“GLOBAL SOLIDARITY ACTION TO SUPPORT ARTIGAS' WORKERS” Response to Fast Retailing Statement on 16 July 2015
The Artigas workers' strike has been going on for more than 40 days since Jun 9 2015, but the management is still employing evasive and oppressive means to deny the workers from their pension and legitimate rights. Trade unions and labour organizations from at least 8 areas worldwide launched a solidarity action on 15/7 to support the workers on strike and demanded Fast Retailing Co, Ltd (here after Fast Retailing), as the customer of Artigas, not to distance herself from the dispute by merely terminating all tides with Artigas. In response to the statement issued by Fast Retailing on 16/7, we would like to point out that the arguments in the statement totally disregarded evidence and complaints put forward by the workers and only adopted Artigas' side of the story. It is obvious that Fast Retailing is unable to fulfill her obligation in corporate social responsibility. The arguments from Lever Style Inc, the parent company of Shenzhen Artigas Clothing & Leatherware Factory, which was fully adopted by Fast Retailing are full of distortions:
Dialogue with the workers disrupted, telephone hotline is not a two-way consultation: Since 5/6, Lever Style has been rejecting the worker's request for collective negotiation. Despite a meeting was held between the management and the workers' representative’s on1/7 and 2/7, no agreement was able to be reached. Subsequently, Lever Style unilaterally terminated any further negotiation and announced that they would only communicate with the workers individually. The establishment of the telephone hotline is merely a perfunctory gesture since Lever Style has already turned away from collective negotiation. In an open letter to UNIQLO on 9/7, Artigas workers demanded the management to return to negotiation on equal terms, and denounced the means of dialogue proposed by the management.
Fast Retailing only adopted the management's side of argument without taking the justifications and complaints from the workers' side in consideration: According to a workers' statement released on 28/6, the management should consult all employees regarding plans for plant relocation and changes of employment contract. Such consultation should be conducted on equal terms and the management shall not refuse collective consultation with employee representatives. Moreover, the workers have repeatedly stressed that issues such as social security contributions, overtime and high temperature allowances arrears have yet to be resolved and complaints have been put forward to government officials twice. Thus, Fast Retailing cannot be considered as safeguarding the rights of the workers diligently if they were making conclusion without objective investigation.
Artigas dismissed a workers' representative who proposed collective negotiation: Both open letters from the Artigas workers and labour organization has pointed out that the Artigas management has already dismissed workers' representative Wu Weihua and prevented her from entering the factory.
If Fast Retailing is taking Corporate Social Responsibility seriously, they should better put their words into actions. Instead of merely issuing statements of concern, we would like to urge Fast Retailing to take a firm stance on ensuring labour rights are being respected in her entire supply chain:
Immediate action to solicit and arrange collective negotiation meeting between the management and workers on equal terms, and send representatives to attend the meeting;
Carefully examined the complaints which are put forward by the Artigas workers, conduct an independent investigation, and contact workers directly;
Immediately instruct the management to repay all severance and social security contribution arrears according to law;
Assist to release Wu Weihua from detention.
On the morning of June 24th, a number of NGOs and trade unions went to the office of UNIQLO in Kwun Tong, to protest against one of the UNIQLO's OEM supplier, the Lever Garment Limited. Lever's subsidary Artigas Clothing & Leatherware Factory (hereafter Artigas) has a long history in arrears of social security contribution, and workers' benefits. Recently, the employer even went as far as planning a relocation of production plant without the consent of the workers. As a result, several hundred workers went on strike this month. The protesters chanted slogans in front of the office and peacefully dispersed after submitting a petition letter.
Five hundred workers from the Artigas at Mission Hills, Shenzhen went on strike since June 8th; and garrisoned the factory to prevent the employer from evacuating the factory. As a matter of fact, customer orders have already been sent to another factory in Shenzhen—Lever Leather Factory—since this May. However, the new plant simply cannot accommodate all the workers from the old plant. Meanwhile, many workers from the old plant have been working for more than ten years and some of them are reaching the statutory retirement age. Not only did they found out the employer has not been paying for their social security contribution in years, they also learned that the rental contract of Qinsheng would expire at the end of June. Thus, the workers demanded the employer to propose a resettlement scheme for the workers and repay all the social security contribution in arrears. In order to fight for their rights, the workers garrisoned the factory and even went on a hunger strike. But not only did the employer of Qinsheng ignore their demands, they even worked hand in glove with the local police and arrested a number of striking workers. Among the detainees, at least one fifty year-old worker has yet to be released after he was arrested by the police on June 8th. Meanwhile, their petition to the local authorities and Letter and Complaints Bureau were largely turned away.
The Lever Garment Limited is an OEM supplier for the famous apparel brand UNIQLO, which is the largest apparel chain in Asia while 70% of the brand's clothing are currently produced in China. On June 17th, UNIQLO issued a statement expressing great concern with regard to the strike, and stressed that the company has always valued workers' rights and other working conditions related matters. However, according to the “UNIQLO Supplier Survery Report in China” conducted and released by SACOM, LAC, and Human Rights Now on January this year; UNIQLO's renowned reputation in providing cheap and high quality products was built upon the exploitation of workers' rights. If UNIQLO really concerns about labour rights, then they should first sort for the release of the detained workers and investigate the incident in order to implement labour rights. From the same statement, UNIQLO also urged the management of Lever to start negotiation with the workers and they did not rule out the termination of orders if Lever failed to do so. But up until now, as there is still no sign of initiative taken by the Lever's management; will UNIQLO ever honour her commitment in pressuring Lever? Meanwhile, as the Director in the Board of the Federation of Hong Kong Garment Manufacturers, the CEO of the Lever Garment, Mr. Szeto Chi Yang is not only setting up a bad example for his fellow colleagues, he also puts all Hong Kong enterprises in shame!
Since June 8th, the Qinsheng workers have been guarding the factory for 17 days determinedly. They issued an open letter to the employer, customers, and the government on the 23rd, demanding the government and Lever's customers should not shun from their responsibility in initiating dialogue between the workers and employer. Meanwhile, we would like to take this opportunity to show our support to the Qinsheng's workers through today's action and urge the Lever's management to initiate negotiation with the workers immediately. We do not rule out an escalation of action in future if the current situation does not improve.
June 24th, 2015