Position and Analysis
The impact of the Umbrella Movement on the labour movement in China and Hong Kong
Between 28 September and 15 December 2014, the largest civil disobedience campaign in the history of Hong Kong took place in the form of an urban occupation, and drew global attention. Also known as the Umbrella Movement, this 79-day occupation set out to demand genuine universal suffrage for the election of the Chief Executive in 2017, and abolition of the functional constituency seats in the Legislative Council (hereafter: Legco).
Worker Wu Guijun won his appeal and received compensation for wrongful detention
In early May 2013, Shenzhen Diweixin Product Factory relocated its plant without paying financial compensation to workers, as required by law. Subsequently, a strike lasting for more than two months broke out and one of the workers' representatives, Wu Guijun, was detained at a protest. After months of detention, he was then charged with “gathering crowds to disrupt traffic order”. Without any conviction, he was detained for over one year.
Who stole Shenzhen workers’ pension?
In April 2014, 48,000 workers launched a strike at Yue Yuen Shoe Factory, located in Dongguan City, over underpayment of the social security premium. It was the largest strike in China in recent years. Migrant workers were first entitled to participate in Shenzhen City’s pension insurance (one component of social security) 27 years ago (in 1987) and the Social Insurance Law requires enterprises to pay premiums according to workers’ actual wages.
Who is responsible for the enormous underpayment of pension insurance premiums?
In April 2014, tens of thousands of workers in Yue Yuen Shoe Factory launched a strike, which was closely followed by both domestic media and the international community. The conflict broke out due to Yue Yuen's underpayment of the social insurance premium, as workers realized that after enduring a dozen years of hardship in the workplace, they would not be entitled to a decent pension.
HKCTU action update
Some 30 members of HKCTU and several labour organizations protested on the morning of 18 July 2014 at the Asia-Pacific merchandising department of Marks & Spencer (hereafter M&S), a major British multinational retailer. The protest was triggered by a suicide the previous morning (17 July 2014), when Zhou Jianrong, 50, jumped from a height after being dismissed by Grosby Footwear (Shenzhen) Ltd., a major supplier of M&S, for her participation in a strike. It is believed that Ms Zhou's death was caused by the unjust dismissal.
Betrayed by a state-owned enterprise
On 29 June 2014, at its shareholders' general meeting in Hong Kong, one ex-employee, Zhang Hong, asked China Construction Bank's chairman, Wang Hongzhang, “why did the bank unlawfully retrench and buy-out its workers?” Nobody answered this question at the meeting, which lasted for only a dozen of minutes. When Wang stepped out of the meeting room, a group of former employees surrounded him, demanding him to explain why he put “retrenched employees” in a sub-meeting and what right he had to deprive former employees, who were also shareholders, the right to attend the main meeting.
Kunshan blast exposes OSH concerns
On 2 August 2014, an explosion took place at Zhongrong Metal Production Company (hereafter Zhongrong Co.) in Kunshan City, Jiangsu Province. 75 workers were killed and 185 were injured. After two days of investigation, Yang Dongliang, the head of China's State Administration of Work Safety, announced that the blast was triggered by a spark that had ignited a dust-filled room. This accident also shows that local government has failed to keep work safety intact.
HKCTU response to legislation on dispatch workers
The China’s Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security drafted the Several Provision on Labour Dispatchfor public consultation subsequent to the amendments on dispatch labour under the Labour Contract Law, effective1 July 2013. Out of the concerns over labour rights protection, the following are the comments from the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU).
HKCTU submission UPR of China
Despite some moves towards greater recognition of the positive role of collective bargaining in the resolution of labour disputes and the smoother running of industrial relations there continues to be a lack of progress towards genuine Democratic elections within the ACFTU and the state monopoly of the ACFTU remains – leaving Chinese workers with no genuine freedom of association. The work of labour rights groups and worker organisers remains severely repressed.