China Labour Quarterly Issue 13
Hong Kong-listed companies cheat Chinese workers out of their hard-earned money
while the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong Limited (the Exchange) turns a blind eye
The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) has set up a “Monitoring Database of Hong Kong Enterprises in China” three years ago, to acquire information through media, social media, and interviews with labour organizations and workers in China. This year, the “Monitoring Report on Collective Labour Disputes of Hong Kong Enterprises in China” (Monitoring Report) covers from May 2015 to June 2016. It documents large-scale labour disputes in Hong Kong enterprises and their labour violations, and aims to monitor multinational brands and Hong Kong entrepreneurs. It also advocates the Hong Kong Government to better monitor Hong Kong-listed enterprises’ conducts in other countries / territories. Last year, the Monitoring Report (2015) disclosed that many Hong Kong enterprises failed to pay for workers’ social security contributions and consequently led to a wave of strikes. This year, the Monitoring Report tells us about how these Hong Kong enterprises use relocation, equity transfer, restructuring, and prolonged wages arrears to force workers into “voluntary resignation”, in order to avoid paying severance compensation as required by law. Almost 60% (59.3%) of the cases of collective labour disputes are related to missing severance compensation and some of them involve listed companies in Hong Kong. Likewise, wages arrears take place in 56.3% of all collective labour disputes cases.
Unusual Features of China’s Walmart Workers’ Resistance
China has experienced an increasing number of strikes in the last few years. Among them, the Walmart workers’ protest that is now in its third month marks a new stage in post-Mao labour history. The protest exhibits a number of special features. First, while all of the strikes so far have taken place at single workplaces, coordinated strikes erupted at the same time this year at four Walmart stores in different cities. Second, these strikes, as well as protests at many other Walmart stores, were initiated and organized by workers themselves without prior contact with any labour NGOs. Third, the protests have been coordinated through the internet, using an on-line platform set up by two Chinese Walmart workers in 2014, The founders gave it a low-key benign name “Walmart China Workers’ Association” (WCWA). The two men serve as coordinators of blogs and chat rooms, with the intention of providing a platform for workers to exchange information, particularly on legal knowledge. The internet discussions have given workers a sense of collective identity as Walmart workers. Though the network does not have any formal organizational structure, it is has become a powerful organizing tool.
Wukan Village, a cry for democracy from the grassroots in China
Wukan, a small village in Lufeng, Guangdong, became the focus of China politics again. Five years ago, large scale farmers’ protest broke out due to land dispute in Wukan village. More than 4,000 people went on the street, eventually forcing the Chinese communist regime to give in and allowed villagers to elect their village chief with equal and anonymous vote. Lin Zuluan, leader of the farmers’ protest and twice elected as the chairman of villagers’ committee, was taken away by police for “accepting bribery” in June this year. In September, Lin was sentenced to prison for 3 years and 1 month. The verdict has led to another large scale protest by the villagers.
China listed in ten worst countries for working people
In its 2015-2016 ITUC Global Rights Index (the Index), published on June 9th this year, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) listed China as one of the ten worst countries for working people.
Johnson Electric neglecting occupational health
Leukemia victim came to HK calling for compensation
Johnson Electric (HKG 0179) is one of the world’s largest manufacturers in motion subsystems and components for automotive and industrial applications, supplying to a number of well-known brands such as Audi, Porsche, BMW, etc. While claiming, as shown on its website, that ‘No harm to people working for us wherever we operate’ is one of their specific Environmental, Health and Safety goals, its words and performance surely lack consistency. A number of employees and former employees of Huaseng Motor (Guangdong) Limited in Shenzhen, a subsidiary manufacturer of Johnson Electric, have contracted leukemia due to prolonged exposure to hazardous chemicals (benzene) and lack of adequate protection equipment provided in workplace. Huaseng has also refused to compensate for statutory medical expenses and pay for original wages and welfare benefits as required by law.