ACFTU helpless with increasing labour disputes caused by casualization of work

In 2015, China achieved its initial stage of economic transformation and the most labour intensive service industries made up over 50% of GNP. In the same year, network coverage of the country has reached 50.3%, which means over 700 million Chinese were accessible to internet. E-commerce has become a new trend of China’s new economy.


In response to the new employment mode of e-commerce, the All-China’s Federation of Trade Unions (here after “ACFTU”) launched a new reform programme: Pilot Project of ACFTU Reform (hereafter “Pilot Reform”). One of the major objectives of the Pilot Reform was to address social conflicts caused by informalization and casualization of employment. 

Though the ACFTU tried to organize workers in the courier and logistics industries by setting up on-line platform or unions, statistics showed that number of collective labour actions have been increasing[1] [2]. In fact, workers in e-commerce, such as the couriers, meal deliverers and livery vehicle drivers have initiated labour actions which attracted much attention in the last few years. For example, drivers of logistics platform Huolala (“Lalamove” in Hong Kong) held strikes in several cities from April to May 2018 to protest against the company’s policies to reduce drivers’ fare. Deliverers of on-line food delivery platform Meituan organized several actions to demand for improvement of employment terms such as salary increase, revision of penalty police and work injury insurance, etc.


E-commerce brought informalization and casualization of employment mode with new employment opportunities, and “false self-employment” has become a norm in these new industries. Increasing number of collection actions initiated by workers in service industries and informal workers has revealed that the Pilot Reform was not able to address challenges of new economy. The ACFTU was helpless when faced with rapid informalization and casualization of employment. The Pilot Reform was nothing but an old trick to pacify workers and whitewashing as it was only about improving members’ benefits and services while the ACFTU was incapable of promoting legal reform to address changing employment relations to improve conditions for casual workers.


[1] New and old economy divisions deepen in Q4 worker actions,

[2] New normal? Strike Map shows steady trends in worker actions in first half of 2017,