Letter-writing campaign: calling UNIQLO and G2000 to urge Artigas to negotiate with workers equally
A thousand workers from Artigas, the direct supplier of UNIQLO & G2000, have put down their tools twice since 10 December 2014, complaining the missing social insurance premium and housing public accumulation fund in arrears. Several hundreds of police stormed into Artigas and physically assaulted and injured many workers on 18 December. After that, Artigas kept delaying negotiation with workers. Recently, they even put forward a workers-unfavorable proposal of housing fund repayment, to end the negotiation compulsorily. We, the Retail, Commerce and Clothing Industries General Union of Hong Kong (RCCIGU), would like to call your participation in the Letter-writing campaign, to urge Artigas to engage in fair and just negotiation with the striking workers and their representatives immediately.
Letter-writing campaign: calling UNIQLO and G2000 to urge Artigas to negotiate with workers equally and immediately
16 January 2015
Mr. Tadashi Yanai
Chairman of UNIQLO, Japan
Mr Michael Tien
Chairman of G2000
Dear Mr Yanai and Mr Tien
We, the Retail, Commerce and Clothing Industries General Union of Hong Kong (hereafter: RCCIGU) and civil society organizations, are very concerned about the strike at your supplier, Artigas Clothing & Leatherwear Co. Ltd (hereafter: Artigas). The RCCIGU and civil society organizations have been to the UNIQLO and G2000 stores in Festival Walk and Langham Place on 17 and 24 December 2014 respectively, calling for your participation to monitor and ensure Artigas to take up its legal responsibilities, in paying full social security premium and housing public accumulation fund. Until now, you have failed to keep your promise, to resolve this labour dispute caused by Artigas’ breach of labour rights, and we are very disappointed about this.
Since 10 December 2014, some 1,000 workers at Artigas have launched two strikes, due to missing social security premiums, housing public accumulation fund in arrears and other irregularities over the last years. As evidence shows, Artigas did not pay for the mandatory social security for all workers. For most workers, they found that Artigas had started paying for their pension insurance in 2003, or even later, despite their services of over 10, or even 20 years. Senior female workers who are approaching 50, the retirement age in China, suddenly find that they are not entitled to pension. The industrial action is caused by such confusing and inconsistent corporate policies and practices.
On 18 December 2014, several hundreds of police stormed into Artigas and dispersed the striking workers, who spent 9 days striking peacefully for their rights to social insurance and housing fund. Workers' representatives were forcibly taken away and shipments for UNIQLO were delivered, with the assistance of the police. 31 workers’ leaders were detained, more workers, including pregnant women, were physically assaulted and injured by the police. The detained workers were threatened to stop their strike and sign a “Statement to renounce one’s rights”. Likewise, those stayed in the factory were threatened by the management to give up the strike and to elect representatives who had been approved by the enterprise. Nonetheless, the workers remained united and refused to retreat. They also refused to sign the agreement to renounce their rights. All detained workers were released before midnight after twelve hours of detention.
Numerous workers were injured by the police. Now, Artigas do not only refuse to cover their medical expenses, but also force injured workers to return to work. It also announced that it would not pay the three severely injured workers’ basic wages of December, as they “failed” to return to work. Since 10 December, Artigas kept delaying negotiation with workers and in recent days, it excluded workers’ representatives who were genuinely elected by workers. Instead, they handpicked supervisors from each department to act as workers’ representatives and put forward a proposal of housing fund repayment, which general workers refused to accept. Artigas also washed its hands of the problem of the missing pension premium.
We are angered by Artigas’ refusal to make constructive dialogue with workers and we condemn its violent crackdown to repress workers. The RCCIGU is now making a solemn appeal to you, that as major buyers of Artigas, you must bear the responsibility to ensure Artigas complying with Chinese Law. Artigas’ retaliation against workers and their elected representatives, for their collective action to defend their rights, is a serious violation of basic labour rights; its refusal to negotiate with workers, is indeed a breach of China’s Labour Contract Law and Trade Union Law.
The RCCIGU now demands UNIQLO of Japan and G2000 of Hong Kong to,
1) engage in fair and just negotiation with the striking workers and their representatives immediately, and promise not to retaliate against workers of this industrial action, in any way in the future;
2) urge Artigas to immediately stop using violence or other forms of repression against the workers’ rights defending action. Violence from police, dismissals or intimidation could not resolve labour disputes;
3) investigate and rectify the non-compliance practices, especially regarding the social security issues in subsidiaries of Artigas and other subcontractors.
We sincerely hope to hear from you in a week’s time. We hope you would act before a widespread public outcry and follow-up intervention of concerned groups are building up!
General Secretary, Retail, Commerce and Clothing Industries General Union
Vice Chairperson (Labour Rights) of Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions
Coordinator, UNI Hong Kong Liaison Council