New day dawns for la­bor rights in Pearl River Delta

In the face of chang­ing de­mo­graph­ics, new rules are on the hori­zon to em­power fac­tory work­ers in dis­putes with em­ploy­ers in Guang­dong, Emma Dai re­ports

China Daily (Canada) - - BUSINESS -

For fac­tory own­ers in Guang­dong prov­ince, China’s man­u­fac­tur­ing hub, the lat­est at­tempt by au­thor­i­ties to ad­dress la­bor rights is noth­ing new. Since the La­bor Con­tract Law took ef­fect in 2008, giv­ing work­ers a say in col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing has been build­ing. This time, how­ever, it looks quite real.

“Wo rke r s al­ready have a lot of wel­fare. I don’t un­der­stand why Guang­dong prov­ince has to im­ple­ment the new la­bor reg­u­la­tion. This is very un­fair to us man­u­fac­tur­ers,” said Ed­ward Tsui Ping-kwong, vice-pres­i­dent of the Chi­nese Man­u­fac­tur­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion of Hong Kong. Tsui’s com­pany, Shing Hing In­dus­trial Ltd, pro­duces a spec­trum of screws, and tar­gets au­to­mo­bile and avi­a­tion in­dus­tries as ma­jor cus­tomers.

The la­bor reg­u­la­tion he re­ferred to is the Guang­dong Prov­ince Col­lec­tive Con­tract Or­di­nance. Its lat­est draft was pre­sented to provin­cial law­mak­ers — the Guang­dong People’s Congress Stand­ing Com­mit­tee — in mid-April. On April 23, the com­mit­tee de­cided to carry out a sec­ond re­view by the end ofMay.

The or­di­nance, ex­pected to go through the lo­cal leg­is­la­ture this year, high­lights col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing rules em­pow­er­ing fac­tory work­ers in ne­go­ti­a­tions over pay­ment, hol­i­days, ex­tra in­sur­ance, train­ing, lay­off plans and other key is­sues. The draft in­di­cates that when a pro­posal is agreed to by more than one-third of the staff, the la­bor union would be re­spon­si­ble for ini­ti­at­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions with the com­pany. Ne­go­ti­a­tions and rel­e­vant prepa­ra­tions should be counted as work­ing hours and paid to la­bor rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

While both par­ties can ini­ti­ate ne­go­ti­a­tions, both also should re­spond to each other within 20 days. Com­pa­nies are not al­lowed to fire work­ers who stage strikes be­cause em­ploy­ers failed to meet the dead­line or refuse to talk for no rea­son.

On April 14, many work­ers at Yue Yuen In­dus­trial (Hold­ings) Ltd fac­to­ries, a Taiwanese shoe­maker op­er­ated by Pou Chen Group, put down their pli­ers and glue, and raised ban­ners and plac­ards af­ter learn­ing that the com­pany had failed to fully pay their so­cial ben­e­fits for as long as a decade.

The fac­to­ries make sports shoes for more than 20 in­ter­na­tional brands, in­clud­ing Nike, Adi­das, Ree­bok and Tim­ber­land. On April 21, an­other 2,000 work­ers at the com­pany’s fac­tory in Jiangxi prov­ince in east­ern China echoed their peers in the south.

Af­ter lo­cal au­thor­i­ties in­ter­vened, most of the work­ers had re­turned to the as­sem­bly line by April 25, but not be­fore the shoe­maker re­ported a loss of $58 mil­lion.

Ear­lier this year, 1,000 work­ers at an IBM Corp fac­tory in Shen­zhen, Guang­dong, demon­strated for higher pay when the fac­tory was about to be handed over to Len­ovo Group Ltd, a Chi­nese PC pro­ducer. Half of the work­ers re­port­edly walked out af­terIBM­sacked 20 demon­stra­tors.

Re­gard­ing the new la­bor reg­u­la­tion, Tsui of the man­u­fac­tur­ers as­so­ci­a­tion said con­cern has spread among Hong Kong man­u­fac­tur­ers that end­less ne­go­ti­a­tions and sab­o­tage may be their lot.

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