Press Release and Statement (CN)

 

A Joint Statement from the Civil Society in Hong Kong

 

We Want a Real Union - Release the Jasic Technology workers

Solidarity with the Jasic Technology workers to form a genuine trade union

 

 

A group of workers from the Shenzhen Jasic Technology Co., Ltd. has been harassed, beaten, and arrested by management, police officers, and security guards for wanting to form a trade union. Since July 27th, the Shenzhen Government has deployed mass quantities of police officers, arrested over thirty people, including Jasic workers, students, and other factory workers.

 

Afterwards, the government detained them on the grounds of “picking quarrels and provoking troubles” (尋釁滋事罪) and they have yet to be released. Many members of the Solidarity Group have also been subpoenaed by the police. It happened when Jasic workers experienced illegal practices at the company, they went to local union, the Pingshan District Federation of Trade Unions to complain. Huang Jianxun, the vice-chair of the Pingshan District union, suggested that they prepare to organize a trade union.

 

The Jasic workers since then applied to the *urban-district union* to form a union according to the union law. Their application was approved and they began to recruit members in the factory. Unexpectedly, the enterprise set up a yellow union in early June, *monopolized by the management of the company*.   By July 12, when Jasic workers’ leader Mi Jiuping had already garnered the support from nearly 90 workers to form a union, he was blamed for organizing an illegal union by the Pingshan District Federation of Trade Unions’ vice-chair along with management.

 

Moreover, workers’ representatives including Liu Penghua and Mi Jiuping have been either transferred or expelled. When they tried to return to the factory for work, they were even beaten by security guards sent by management and later on by police officers.

 

Workers rushed to the Yanziling Police Station to protest the beatings and abuse against them. The videos of the protestors were shared online and received widespread support from many people before being deleted. On July 20th, police officers arrested protesting workers until the 21st out of no reason.

 

Since then, workers and supporters have been constantly protesting the unreasonable abuse from police officers and the company, requesting the police to investigate the plain clothes police and security guards that attacked workers, and also seeking reinstatements from the employers and officially being recognized the right to organize a union. Jasic workers continued their fight fearless of the suppression from officials, management, police officers, and the Pingshan Federation of Trade Unions. News of their protests spread throughout online platforms in mainland China.

 

“We have already been suppressed for more than 20 years, and it can not go on any longer!” The workers stated in a speech. From July 27th to July 30th, the police arrested workers and supporters who continued to defend their rights. More than 30 people were criminally detained. As of July 30th, fifteen more supporters were subpoenaed by the police and could not be contacted.  

 

The All China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU)  has claimed to promote trade union reform since 2015, and the Pingshan Federation of Trade Unions is said to be one of the pilots for Trade Union reform.

However, Jasic workers who have applied for forming a union according to law were subsequently beaten, dismissed and arrested. This incident indicated the failure of this reform.

 

The chairman of Jasic is also Shenzhen People’s Congressman Pan Lei, this disclosed a fact that officials, management, and the ACFTU are colluding to exterminate the voices of workers.

 

We hereby reiterate:

  1. Rights defenders are innocent:  the police should immediately release the workers and supporters involved, promise not to sue them, and offer them an apology;
  2. Immediate reinstatement: Jasic employers dismissed workers’ representatives who sought to form a union, such dismissal is illegal. They should reinstate workers and recognize the union they are forming;
  3. Form a genuine union: Jasic workers are entitled to from union according to law. The Pingshan Federation of Trade Unions should stop standing by the management-led yellow union, also should investigate  Union’s vice-chair Huang Jianxun and Company’s department Chief Xie Zhihai for their activities betraying workers.
  4.  

Joint Organizations 聯署團體:

  1. 香港職工會聯盟 Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions
  2. 勞動力 Worker Empowerment
  3. 中國勞動透視 Labour Action China
  4. 大學師生監察無良企業行動 Students and Scholars against Corporate Misbehaviour
  5. 勞工教育及服務網絡 Labor education and service network
  6. 全球化監察 Globalization Monitor
  7. 中國勞工通訊 China Labour Bulletin
  8. 社會民主連線 League of Social Democrats
  9. 香港專上學生聯會社會運動資源中心(自治八樓)autonomous 8a
  10. 影行者 V-artivist
  11. 香港天主教正義和平委員會 Justice and Peace Commission of the Hong Kong Catholic Diocese
  12. 香港基督徒學生運動 Student Christian Movement of Hong Kong
  13. 民主黨 Democratic Party
  14. 工黨 Labour Party
  15. 香港市民支援愛國民主運動聯合會 The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China
  16. 街工勞工組 Worker division of Neighbourhood and Worker's Service Centre
  17. 黃潤達議員辦事處 District Councilor Office of Wong Yun-Tat
  18. 梁錦威議員辦事處 District Councilor Office of Leung Kam Wai
  19. 亞洲跨國企業監察網絡 Asian transnational corporations (ATNC) monitoring network

 

Online Petition—In Support of Chinese Leftwing Activists Detained for Organising a Reading Group

23

Jan 2018

 

In Support of Young Leftwing Activists Detained and Wanted for Organising a Reading Group on November 15 2017

 

PLEASE LEND YOUR SUPPORT BY SIGNING THE PETITION HERE:

https://sites.google.com/lsd.org.hk/leftyouth

On November 15 2017, an ongoing reading group organised by a group of university students and recent graduates in a classroom of the Guangdong University of Technology was cracked down by local police. 6 participants were seized, among which Ye Jianke and Zhang Yunfan were later locked up as criminal suspects. Zhang Yunfan was first accused of involving in “illegal business operations”, but later taken under police custody in the Panyu Detention Centre for “gathering crowds to disrupt social order”. The police also stormed into the residence of Zheng Yongming and Sun Tingting, who are also organisers of the reading group and labour activists, and then put them under criminal detention on December 5 and 8 respectively. In an open letter released by Zhang Yunfan on January 15 2017, he mentions that the June 4th incident in 1989 was discussed during the reading group session. The open letter also reveals that that 4 persons (Zhang Yunfan, Ye Jianke, Zheng Yongming and Sun Tingting) are in fact released on bail for a pending trial. Yet 4 other people including Xu Zhongliang, Huang Liping, Han Peng and Gu Jiayue are still wanted as criminal suspects.

The incident has drawn widespread public attention. Last month, more than 400 academics, students and social activists with political stances from across the spectrum initiated a petition in support of Zhang Yunfan and the others. Under confinement and police threat, Zhang Yunfan could do little but compromise, but the open letter written after his release demonstrates that he still sticks to his principles by telling the truth and making his experience known to the public. Meanwhile, Sun Tingting and Zheng Yongming also wrote against the police actions. Their public outcry against the crackdown and support from people with different ideological stances demonstrate the courage of Chinese citizens to speak out despite the increasingly oppressive political environment in China.

The unjustified detention of Zhang Yunfan and others does not simply affect their rights of organising read groups and concern about labour issues on campus, but also pose a threat to the freedom of speech and other basic civil rights of all Chinese citizens. If merely discussing social affairs in a reading group is so abruptly oppressed, is it still possible for ordinary citizens – particularly workers and peasants – to enjoy freedoms of speech and other sorts in any case? Is it still possible to defend their rights with the freedom of speech and association? Zhang Yunfan and Zheng Yongming position themselves as left-leaning who remain “loyal to the working class and faithful to Marxism”, and they do show compassion towards workers and the subaltern. Apart from organising readings groups, other left-leaning young people are involved in the production of a recently published investigative report on the working conditions of support workers in Peking University, as well as other community activities to “help underprivileged workers and peasants at the bottom of society to live with dignity”. In China nowadays, their persistent concern about welfare of the underprivileged and critical edge on social injustice is rare and respectable. The fact that they are oppressed in this way reveals how the Chinese government actually sides against the working class.

We support the freedom of speech for Zhang Yunfan and the others, and protest against unjustified arrest and detention, even though we are not necessarily in line with the Maoist perspectives that they believe in. For instance, we do not endorse the judgement of some Maoists on the rule of Mao and their conservative view on democracy. We believe that the leftwing should advocate for an authentic democratic system, under which the working class manage to seek political authority on the basis of political freedom (including the freedom to form different political parties), transcend the despotism of the capitalist class and state bureaucracy, and progressively establish a truly egalitarian and peaceful society without class distinction and exploitation. We are open to public debates or even criticising the Maoist stances, but we are strongly against dismissing anyone’s rights to discuss social issues and express political views freely. We remain respectful to the left-leaning students and young people, who sincerely persist on advocating for the wellbeing of the masses in this authoritarian regime but still suffer in this incident.

Real democracy and socialism will not be achieved without the freedom of speech and other civil liberties. We call for the attention of citizens in Hong Kong and Taiwan to the development of this incident. Transregional solidarity with students and workers from mainland China striving for political freedom is of utmost importance to terminate the oppression of the Chinese Communist regime on all citizens, and to free civil liberties from threat in all regions.

Organising reading groups is not a crime. Discussing the June Fourth Movement is not a crime. Oppression is not justifiable. We strongly urge for:

1. Unconditional revocation of charges of Zhang Yunfan, Sun Tingting, Zheng Yongming and Ye Jianke; discontinuation of searching for Xu Zhongliang, Huang Liping, Han Peng and Gu Jiayue.

2. Immediate access to freedoms of speech and publication nationwide; release of all political prisoners; prohibition of unlawful detention which oppresses the freedom of speech, so that everyone enjoys the right to express their views freely.

3. Immediate access to the freedom of association, so that workers are able to organise independent from monitoring and control; an end to the one-party rule to give room to free competition among independently organised political parties; a representative body of all citizens with universal suffrage; a democratic political system and functional legal system to protect civil rights of all citizens.

4. Disciplinary measures on the Panyu Police Bureau for unlawfully detaining Zhang Yunfan and the others.

5. Rectification of social problems and a just society.

 

Public Statement from the Civil Society to call for a Halt to Evictions of the Urban Poor in Beijing

01

Dec 2017

 

Stop the Violent Eviction of the Urban Poor; Respect the Housing Rights of the People

 

On November 18, 2017, a fire broke out in Daxing District of Beijing, a suburb densely populated by low-income migrant workers.  The fire killed at least 19 people and injured 8. After the fire, in the name of “improving the cityscape”, the Beijing Municipal Government embarked on an illegal eviction of migrant workers by force, while cutting off their electricity and water supplies. Tens of thousands of grassroots residents were forced out of their homes when temperature hovered around freezing point.
 
We (a group of civil society organisations) are outraged at how the authorities treated its people as “low-end population”. These internal migrant workers are in fact the cornerstone of China’s astounding economic growth. Since the economic reform, hundreds of millions of migrant workers are drawn to the cities from their rural hometowns and become the engine that powers the thriving industries. However, these workers are often denied reasonable wages, regardless of their hard-work. As a result, most migrant workers are unable to afford dignified living conditions in the cities. Worse still, municipal authorities also deem migrant workers as disposable “others”, and exclude them from the urban social security system through the Household Registration (Hukou) System.  Thus, migrant workers’ needs and rights are often neglected in urban planning, education, medical services and other policies.
 
The Household Registration (Hukou) System has been adopted by the Chinese Government not only as a means to control the population, it also deprives the “migrant population” of citizenship rights in places other than their municipality of origin. The System has become such a deeply rooted belief and it continues to exploit the labour of the “migrant population” at the expenses of their social protections and well-beings. In past decades, the institutional discrimination against migrants has been further reinforced by the Chinese Government, as they are regarded as second-class citizens and the first to be sacrificed when crises emerge. During the financial crises in 2008 and 2012, for instance, the government drove out unemployed migrant workers and forced them to move back to their hometowns.
 
The fundamental cause of the Daxing fire is that the government failed to resolve the safety risks occurring in the urban sprawl in time. However, the Beijing Municipal authorities unreasonably shirked responsibilities to the “migrant population”, as if all the urban problems are simply caused by the migrant population’s “refusal to leave”, disregarding the fact that the development of the city has been built on the exploitation of these low-income migrants. Instead of resolving the fundamental issues, the fact that the authorities have used the Daxing fire as an excuse to evict the migrants to “make the city a better place” is undoubtedly like climbing a tree to catch a fish. To make matters worse, the unhealthy wind of the “eviction of the low-end population” has also been taken up by other provinces and cities. As reported, migrants in certain districts of Shenzhen and Guangzhou have also received eviction notices. The local authorities will need to immediately stop these discriminating and violent actions, before further humanitarian disasters emerge!
 
We believe that protecting the people is the responsibility of any government, and we demand the Beijing Municipal Government to:
 
1) Stop forced eviction immediately and actively facilitate the resettlement of the evictees;
 
2) Recognize the grassroots population as important stakeholders in the city and ensure their freedom of movement, right to housing, work, education and medical service are respected in government policies;
 
3) Hold the administrative organs and the staff accountable for the illegal actions and violation of people’s rights in the forced evictions;
 
4) Compensate all the financial losses of the residents affected by the forced evictions.
 
 
Note: Administrative Compulsion Law of the People’s Republic of China,  Article 43 Administrative organs shall not conduct administrative enforcement at night or on a statutory public holiday, except for in an emergency. Administrative organs shall not force the parties concerned to perform the relevant administrative decisions by such means as cutting off the supply of water, electricity, heating or gas for the living of residents.
 
 
Signatories (as of 1/12/2017):
 
Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions
Justice and Peace Commission of the Hong Kong Catholic Diocese
League of Social Democrats
Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China
SACOM
Globalization Monitor
Worker Empowerment
Asia Monitor Resource Centre
Labour Education and Service Network
Labour Action China
Student Fight For Democracy
Civil Human Rights Front 
Labour Party
Borderless movement
Land Justice League
Demosistō
Community March
China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group
Hong Kong Chef Union
Left 21
Concerning Grassroots' Housing Rights Alliance
CSSA Alliance
Community Development Alliance
Voters’ Voice
China Labour Bulletin
Councilor Chu Hoi-dick’s Office
Ekklesia Hong Kong
Neighbourhood and Worker's Service Centre
Industrial Relations Institue
Polyu Pavilion
Social Movement Resource Centre(Autonomous 8A)
LU Workers Concern Group
BU movement
Midnight blue
Progressive Lawyers Group
HK Psychologists Concern
Hong Kong Association of Women Social Workers
Reclaiming Social Work Movement
HKEd4All
Financier Conscience
Society of HKBU Social Work 
Hong Kong Federation of Social Work Students
HKCTSSW
Hong Kong Professional Teachers' Union
Civil Renaissance
Artists Action
Progressive Teachers' Alliance
Grassroots Development Centre
Labour Rights Commune
Hong Kong Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood
Democratic Party
門徒事工
v-artivist
ODAAG
Insurance ARISE
LIPS Labour Resource Centre (Indonesia)
 Forum Worlds of Labour (Forum Arbeitswelten e.V. ) (Germany)
National Union Confederation (Indonesia)
Worker's Initiative Kolkata (India)
Korean House for International Solidarity (Korea)
Socialist Party of Malaysia (Malaysia)
Just Economy and Labor Institute (Thailand)
SÜDWIND Institute (Germany)
IG Metall (Berlin)
LabourNet Germany (Germany)
Unifor Retiree Council Lower Mainland (Canada)
放射良心 
ArchiVision
Committee for Asian Women (Malaysia)
Hong Kong Labour NGOs Joint Statement: Restore Meng Han’s Freedom, Stop all Surveillance Now

14

Sep 2017

 
MENG Han, a Guangdong labour activist, was released on 3 September after 21 months’ wrongful imprisonment. He was sentenced for “inciting a crowd to disturb public order” because he was merely participated in organising workers in collective labour disputes. We, the undersigned Hong Kong labour organisations, would like to reiterate that Meng was simply defending basic labour rights and exercising the right to freedom of association which, by no means, constitute any criminal offence.
 
Besides, we are deeply concerned for his personal freedom. Although Meng has reportedly expressed his willingness to continue participating in labour rights movement, he remains under the unlawful 24 hours’ surveillance by the authorities.
 
The International Labour Organization’s Committee of Freedom of Association (ILO-CFA) published an interim report last November responding to the complaint filed by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) against the Chinese Government on the arrests of labour activists, which has urged the Chinese Government to take the necessary steps to ensure that freedom of association is protected and the released labour activists should be allowed to continue to provide advisory services to workers without hindrance. Therefore, we are aggrieved that Meng’s personal freedom and his right to defend labour rights are persistently infringed by the Chinese Government. We solemnly demand that the Chinese Government must:
 
1. Ensure Meng’s personal freedom and basic human rights are not to be violated;
 
2. Ensure Meng can continue to offer any advisory service and organise workers for the defence of their own labour rights without any unreasonable restriction and violation;
 
3. Stop the arrests of all activists and the suppressions of civil society and labour movement.
 
Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions
Labour and Education Service Network
Labour Action China
Asia Monitor Resource Centre
Globalization Monitor
Students and Scholars against Corporate Misbehaviour
Worker Empowerment                        
Freedom of Speech is not a crime! Release labour rights activist Liu Shaoming now!

06

Jul 2017

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!

 

We demand:

 

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

 

Signed by:

Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions

China Labour Bulletin

Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour

Worker Empowerment

Labour Action China

Labour Education and Service Network

Globalization Monitor

Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China

Neighbourhood and Worker's Service Centre

League of Social Democrats

Labour Party

Asia Monitor Resource Centre

Imperial Pacific must Pay Legal Wages, Compensate Injuries of Saipan Construction Workers

16

May 2017

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:

 

  1. Reimburse the recruitment fees paid to obtain work with these contractors;
  2. Compensate each hour worked according to minimum wage and overtime laws; and
  3. Compensate for the severe injuries that will impact workers for the rest of their lives.

 

Hong Kong Confederation of Unions

 

 

 

 

You Can Take Action Too:

 

  • Follow the Gold Mantis Labor account on Twitter for updates on casino workers’ struggle to recover recruitment fees, legal wages, and work injury compensation: https://twitter.com/GoldMantisLabor.

 

  • Tell Gold Mantis’ PR consultant (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)) to pay its workers compensation for their workplace injuries.

 

  • Tell Imperial Pacific via email (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)) or phone (+852- 3968-9800) that all exploited casino workers must receive the pay and compensation to which they are entitled.

 

 

Selected Media Coverage:

 

Video: Who Will Compensate Me?

https://chinachange.org/2017/05/11/injured-chinese-workers-in-saipan-demand-compensation-from-employer/

 

被困塞班島中國工人獲賠薪資後回國,美國之音,2017年5月16日。

 

被困塞班島中國工人引發的故事,美國之音,2017年5月6日。

 

塞班島中國工人怒吼:我要工資,不要煙! 紅氣球,2017年5月5日。

 

Neil Gough and Cao Li, U.S. Investigates Work at Pacific Island Casino Project With Trump Ties, New York Times, May 4, 2017. (中文版)

 

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.

 

Statement on Sales of McDonald’s China and Hong Kong

20

Feb 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

Open Statement by Hong Kong Labour Groups on the Trial of Guangdong Labour Activists

26

Sep 2016

 

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.

 

Signitories:

Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions

Globalization Monitor

Workers Empowerment

Labour Education and Service Network

Labour Action China

Red Balloon Editorial Committee

Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour

China Labour Bulletin

Left 21

Asia Monitor Resource Centre


September 26, 2016

Statement from Hong Kong labour groups on the prosecution of labour activists in Guangdong

16

Jul 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.

 

Signed:

Asia Monitor Resource Centre

China Labour Bulletin

The editorial committee of Red Balloon Solidarity

Globalization Monitor

Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions

Labour Action China

Labour Education and Service Network

Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior

Workers Empowerment

 

Press Release: Walt Disney Co. refuses to comment on the unlawful one-tenth severance compensation

22

Apr 2016

Mizutani (Shenzhen) Toy Factory Co. Ltd., is a Hong Kong registered enterprise established in 1997, its major orders used to come from Tokyo Disneyland. In June 2015, Mizutani suddenly announced to close its plant in Shenzhen and relocate it to the Philippines. According to China’s Labour Contract Law and Social Insurance Law, Mizutani still owes its 196 employees a total of some 9 million Yuan of social insurance contribution, economic compensation (severance compensation) and housing provident fund and etc. In September 2015, Mizutani workers traveled to Hong Kong to stage a protest and after numerous demanding, Mizutani finally restarted to talk with its workers in March 2016. However, Mizutani offered to settle the dispute with one tenth of compensation which workers are entitled to and workers refused to accept such an unlawful compensation.

      

Worker Zōu yú 

Representatives from Walt Disney Co. met with Worker Empowerment (WE) and Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) “symbolically” in mid July 2015 once only, nothing have been heard from them since then. After then workers, HKCTU, WE and SEIU Workers United Local 50 from the USA repeatedly wrote to ask Walt Dinsey Co. and Tokyo Disneyland to intervene, but both of them declined to reply. The report, “Suppliers Escaped: Disney Abandoned Mizutani Toy Makers Viciously” is jointly published by WE and HKCTU, to investigate and discuss the labour rights violations in Mizutani and how Walt Disney Co. betrays its frontline workers. The major findings are listed as follows:

 

1. By underpaying social insurance contribution, severance compensation and unlawfully dismissing workers, Mizutani has violated China’s Labour Contract Law and Social Insurance Law.


2. The livelihood of 196 Mizutani workers has been severely affected by the sudden factory closure. Most of these middle-aged workers have served in Mizutani between 10 and 20 years and seeking new jobs would be a big challenge for them. Missing social insurance contribution would leave them no pension and this would create serious trouble when they retire.

 

3. Walt Disney Co.’s International Labour Standards Programme requires all its suppliers to follow local laws, they are specifically required not to threaten workers and respect freedom of association (including rights to organize and collective bargaining). However, it has ignored Mizutani’s grave violations of the above-mentioned labour rights. Those include:

a) Violations of Chinese labour legislations: Mizutani is moving to the Philippines and is financially sound. Yet, it deliberately violates Labour Contract Law and Social Insurance law and owes workers some 9 million Yuan.
Rejection of collective negotiation: since the announcement of the closure of the factory, workers had requested to negotiate with Mizutani but it refused.

 

b) Denial of workers’ rights to organize: out of desperate, workers launched a strike and road blockage. They were violently taken away by riot police and 23 workers were detained.


c) Refusal of paying severance compensation and threatening workers to “voluntarily resign”: when it announced to close its Shenzhen plant in June 2015, it forced workers to sign “voluntary resignation agreements”

 

d) Walt Disney Co. has been informed of these labour rights violations and the dispute at Mizutani through formal complaint and media exposure, yet it has only reacted to this dispute through emails, phone calls and a non-constructive meeting. Until now, no formal investigation has been seen and no solution has been provided to these violations.  

 

Walt Disney Co. claims that its labour standards are in line with the standards of International Labour Organization. Yet the Mizutani case illustrates that Walt Disney Co. does not respect China’s labour legislations and freedom of association, a fundamental labour right. Workers at Mizutani has repeatedly sought help from Walt Disney Co. and even delivered a letter to its Hong Kong office in person. Furthermore, labour organizations also reached out to ask for its intervention, but Walt Disney Co. distanced itself from the dispute. Each year, Walt Disney Co. receives a large sum of revenue from Tokyo Disneyland, but it turns a blind eye to the SOS signal from the 196 workers, who have worked at its supplier for years. In short, the so-called corporate social responsibility of Walt Disney Co. is simply an empty promise.

 

Apart from this report, WE and HKCTU will launch a phone-call campaign in Hong Kong, the USA, Japan and the Philippines, aiming to expose the cruel reality that Walt Disney Co., though claiming to create happiness and dreams for children, is an accomplice when it comes to labour exploitation.

 

A full report, Mizutani workers’ photos and a worker’s story are included in this press release.

 

Our recommendations:

1. Disney must investigate the case and fulfil its commitment to workers’ rights across the supply chain and help the Mizutani workers reclaim their missing compensation in the wake of the company’s abrupt factory closure in June 2015.

2. Mizutani unilaterally terminated workers’ labour contracts. By law, it should pay double severance compensation and Disney should pay the missing part of the compensation, which should be calculated by wages payable.

3. Mizutani must pay the missing premiums of workers’ social insurance and housing provident fund since their dates of commencement.

4. Disney should urge Mizutani to compensate workers as recommended above. If Mizutani fails to do so, Disney should bear the responsibility of failing to supervise its supplier attentively and compensate workers directly.

 

Released by: Worker Empowerment, Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions

 

 

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

Demanding Release of Labour Activists in Guangdong by Chinese New Year

06

Feb 2016

 

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

 

Global call: Demand the Chinese authorities to immediate release the detained labour activists!

21

Dec 2015

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

 

We demand:

  1. Immediately and unconditionally release all the detained labour activists.
  2. Stop suppressing labour organisations, workers’ representatives and civil society organisations.
  3. Respect and protect the development and freedom of civil society as prescribed by China’s Constitution.

 

For more details, please refer to: https://www.facebook.com/freechineselabouractivists/

Hypocritical CSR Policy Harsh Exploitation on Workers Unveiling UNIQLO’s labour rights violations

26

Nov 2015

 

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 CSR Information

18

Sep 2015

Press Release

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.

 

We recommend

  1. Mandatory disclosure – because “comply or explain” in certain aspects is not strong enough to make listed companies to disclose information;
  2. Enlarging the scope of disclosure – the recommendations are not suffice on the aspects of employment, health and safety, labour standards, supply chain management;
  3. Punishment is needed – there should be a clear mechanism for punishment if listed companies are found violating labour law and the requirement of disclosure.


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

 

Preface

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. Mandatory disclosure – because “comply or explain” in certain aspects is not strong enough to make listed companies to disclose information;
  2. Enlarging the scope of disclosure – the recommendations are not suffice on the aspects of employment, health and safety, labour standards, supply chain management
  3. Punishment is needed – there should be a clear mechanism for punishment if listed companies are found violating labour law and the requirement of disclosure.

 

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.

 

  1. Strengthening the supervision of listed companies, their subsidiaries and suppliers to comply with labor legislation

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:

 

  1. Provisions relating to compliance with labor legislation
    1. When a complaint of a listed company or its subsidiary is founded on sufficient evidence for the violation of labour laws in Hong Kong or other jurisdictions, the licensed corporation of the listed company must be immediately notified, to take prompt and effective remedial action, and to submit a detailed report including remedial action within the specified time;
    2. That listed company shall publish its offending matter in the conspicuous location of its annual reports and ESG reporting. Letters should be sent all investors to disclose the offence in order to alert and help them to understand the potential risk.
    3. All annual reports of listed companies should be uploaded to the website of HKEx. A list of companies found for violation should also be accessible for public viewing
    4. If there is no improvement or significant violation to the labour laws in the host State is discovered, HKEx should investigate. Set up an independent commission of inquiry to make further investigation whenever it is necessary. Appropriate disciplinary action should follow suit, that includes public reprimand, revoke or suspend a license and fined.

 

  1. Verification of compliance to labour laws
    1. Verification of no violation to any Hong Kong or overseas labour laws should be required as a pre-condition for approval to the IPO
    2. To promote this policy, the Listing Rules should immediately modified accordingly
    3. HKEx should immediately seek clarification with the company that rectification policies are formulated and responses are addressed to the alleged violation. In the absence of satisfactory reply, the listing procedures should be put on hold.

 

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

 

B. Social

Aspect B1      Employment

General Disclosure                 

Information on:

  1. the policies; and
  2. compliance with relevant laws and regulations that have a significant impact on the issuer

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

General disclosure                 

Information on:

  1. the policies; and
  2. compliance with relevant laws and regulations that have a significant impact on the issuer

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

General Disclosure                        

Information on:

(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

Taking social responsibilities is not talking without action

22

Jul 2015

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:

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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:

 

  1. Immediate action to solicit and arrange collective negotiation meeting between the management and workers on equal terms, and send representatives to attend the meeting;

  2. Carefully examined the complaints which are put forward by the Artigas workers, conduct an independent investigation, and contact workers directly;

  3. Immediately instruct the management to repay all severance and social security contribution arrears according to law;

  4. Assist to release Wu Weihua from detention.


 

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