Dispatched Workers Protested for Equal Pay for Equal Work at FAW Volkswagen in Changchun

On 21 May 2017, dispatched workers from FAW Volkswagen’s plant in Changchun, China protested for “equal pay for equal work” at the Changchun Marathon. Three workers’ representatives, Fu Tianfu, Wang Shuai, Ai Zhenyu were detained shortly afterwards. At the time of writing, Wang and Ai have been released reportedly, while Fu remains detained. All three workers’ representatives might face criminal charges. Despite the suppression, the struggle goes on. In Germany, trade union of Mercedes Benz’s Bremen plant issued a statement to support the Changchun dispatched workers’ demands. The statement points out that in the first quarter of 2017, Volkswagen made a profit of 33.5 million Yuan and growth is expected to continue. While dispatched / subcontracted workers are putting in the same kind of work as regular workers, they should be treated equally. The German union also urged the authority to release the workers’ representatives immediately.

Since 2016, Volkswagen Changchun has been employing dispatched workers by renewable short-term contracts, forcing them to work on “unequal pay for equal work”. Workers protested previously and the enterprise promised to resolve the problem. Yet, the so-called resolution allows dispatch workers to be promoted as regular workers only after 10 years of services and transferred to plants in other cities such as Tianjin, Chengdu, Fushan or Qingdao. Since it is unrealistic for workers to move with their families after living in Changchun for over a dozen years, none of the workers accepted this “resolution”.

According to the China Labour Contract Law (2012), employers are allowed to hire dispatch workers on short-term basis for a maximum of six months on temporary, auxiliary, and replacement positions only. However, some workers have been working in FAW Volkswagen on renewable short-term contracts for over ten years. Such a practice is a blunt violation of the Chinese labour legislation. According to an interview conducted by Deutsche Welle, it also violates the parent company’s promise to temporary workers on their right to employment.

“Unequal pay for equal work” is a disrespectful way to treat workers. Moreover, when employers deploy dispatch workers to reduce labour costs, non-dispatched and regular workers would also be affected eventually. It is predictable that the employer would keep looking for cheaper means of employment and cause a decline in regular workers’ income or put them out of jobs. Thus, there should be no conflict between regular workers and sub-contracted workers, they should be united to fight against exploitation brought by sub-contracting.