Archive for ‘worker rights’

11/03/2015

Chinese shoe factory workers strike over benefits | Reuters

About 5,000 workers have gone on strike at a shoe manufacturer in southern China over benefits, two activists and a worker said, marking one of the biggest work-stoppages in the country in months.

The company that owns the factory, Stella International Holdings Ltd, lists Guess? Inc, Michael Kors Holding Ltd, Prada SpA and Burberry Group PLC among its customers.

China’s slowing economy, rising costs and the spread of social media have driven an increase in strikes. Last year, the number of strikes more than doubled to 1,378 from 656 the year before, according to China Labour Bulletin, a Hong Kong-based advocacy group.

The strike at Stella’s Xing Ang factory in the city of Dongguan started on Sunday with workers unhappy about not receiving housing assistance, said Liu Zai, who added she had not received the funds in eight years at the factory.

“We want an explanation. Why haven’t they paid this for so many years?” she said by telephone.

Liu and two activists said all of the factory’s workers, about 5,000 people, were on strike. On Wednesday, most were forced to return to their workplace but were still refusing to work, Liu said.

via Chinese shoe factory workers strike over benefits | Reuters.

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26/02/2015

A Shot at Solving China’s Angry Worker Problem – China Real Time Report – WSJ

Labor unrest is on the rise in China and likely to increase as the leadership grapples with a dangerous combination of an economic slowdown and the lack of effective institutions to cope with worker unrest.

A new set of regulations put forward by one province offers a potential solution while at the same time illustrating the difficulty the Communist Party faces in effectively addressing workers’ grievances.

Regulations for “collective contracts” adopted by the Standing Committee of the People’s Congress in southern China’s Guangdong Province took effect on January 1, 2015, giving employees more leeway to initiate collective bargaining with their employers.  Observers in the government, chambers of commerce, the state-backed All-China Federation of Trade Unions and workers’ rights organizations will be watching to see whether the new rules represent a meaningful step forward in advancing labor rights.

The need for rules that would allow China’s workers to negotiate better conditions is great.  Labor disputes are the most prevalent form of social conflict in the country, according to the Chinese Academy of Social Science’s annual report on social trends. Labor incidents during the fourth quarter of 2014 rose to 569, more than three times the number in the previous year, according to the China Labor Bulletin (CLB), which finds that 87% of  workers’ demands are for “wage arrears, pay increases and compensation.”

In 2014, workers went on strike around the country in a range of industries, from manufacturing to teaching to transportation.

The causes of the unrest varied accordingly: In April, for example, the majority of workers at a Taiwanese-owned factory in Guangdong that makes products for Adidas struck to protest the company’s failure to pay its 40,000 workers their full social security and housing allowances. The strike, which cost an estimated $27 million in loses to the factory, drew large numbers of police into the streets. Workers later accused local officials and company executive of using force to get them to return to work, though the government denied any force was used.

In December, thousands of teachers went on strike in six cities or counties in Heilongjiang to protest low salaries and the required contributions to pension plans; in Guangdong, teachers’ strikes protested low monthly salaries that were below what the government had promised.

And earlier this year, taxi drivers walked out in the cities of Nanjing, Chengdu, Shenyang, and Qingdao to protest local government limitations on taxi fares and smartphone apps that allow passengers to negotiate fares.

As the CLB notes, the majority of enterprise trade unions are controlled by and represent the interests of management. ACFTU officials, meanwhile, are “essentially government bureaucrats with little understanding of the needs of workers or how to represent them in negotiations with management.” The state-sanctioned trade union, CLB adds, “still sees itself as bridge or mediator between workers and management rather than as a voice of the workers.”

In recent years, the government emphasized mediation as a way to solve labor disputes and protect social stability, followed by what University of Michigan expert Mary Gallagher has called a “more interventionist stance” that involved government officials helping to settle disputes typically in favor of workers.  All the while, Gallagher writes, collective organizations outside the ACFTU have been restricted to prevent any workers’ collective action from growing into “anything long-term, programmatic, or institutional.”

via A Shot at Solving China’s Angry Worker Problem – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

22/11/2014

In China, 8,000 Teachers Go on Strike – Businessweek

For three days in November, 8,000 schoolteachers in China’s northern Heilongjiang province refused to enter a classroom. They were on strike, demanding that the city government honor a pledge made in January to raise their salaries and benefits.

An SVG map of China with Heilongjiang province...

An SVG map of China with Heilongjiang province highlighted Legend: Image:China map legend.png (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What’s remarkable about this demonstration is that there is no equivalent of the American Federation of Teachers in China; independent unions in any industry sector remain illegal. And yet, from factory workers to teachers, Chinese citizens are increasingly using the toolkit of collective action to push for fair labor practices.

Earlier this year, the government of Zhaodong, a city of about 100,000 people, promised to raise teacher salaries and provide compensation for those forced to travel in snowy and inclement weather. (Heilongjiang is China’s northernmost province, bordering Siberia.) For almost 10 months, the promises went unfulfilled.

via In China, 8,000 Teachers Go on Strike – Businessweek.

11/11/2014

Chinese Workers Get Nice Raises but Japanese Get Stiffed – Businessweek

American workers aren’t the only ones wondering when they’ll finally be getting a raise. In Japan, companies benefiting from the weak yen are enjoying record profits, but they’re still reluctant to agree to significant wage increases for their workers. In a survey of expected 2015 salary increases in 17 Asian countries, Japan comes in second-to-last, according to human resources consulting company ECA International. Only Macau, the Chinese gambling enclave hit by high inflation, will do worse.

Car manufacturing in Wuhan, China

Even what appears to be good news turns out to leave households struggling. Last week, the Japanese government announced average monthly wages increased 0.5 percent in September. While that was the best performance in more than six years, workers shouldn’t get too excited. After adjusting for price increases, total cash earnings (including bonuses and overtime payments) fell for the 15th consecutive month, dropping 2.9 percent.

Until recently, Japanese workers could at least rely on deflation to provide a boost to their earnings. But with the yen falling, taxes rising, and the Bank of Japan starting a new round of stimulus, that’s no longer the case. “With deflation going on, actually people were much better off than they were in previous years,” Lee Quane, ECA regional director for Asia, told Bloomberg TV on Monday. Now, however, “because of the impact of the consumption tax increases and other inflationary impacts, actually workers aren’t going to be very well off in 2015 vs. this year.”

via Chinese Workers Get Nice Raises but Japanese Get Stiffed – Businessweek.

05/11/2014

Poetry of a Former Foxconn Worker in China Evokes Images of Factory Life – Businessweek

Before he took his life in late September, 24-year-old Xu Lizhi was a regular contributor of poetry to Foxconn People, the internal newspaper at his sprawling factory complex in Shenzhen. Only after he died did his writing find a wider audience, as factory friends collected his poems for publication in the Shenzhen News.

Safety netting posted around a building in Foxconn City in Shenzhen, China

Like millions of other young Chinese, Xu left his home in rural Guangdong province in 2010 to find work in the big city; he had been working intermittently on Foxconn (2317:TT)’s electronics assembly line for four years.

Following a series of 14 suicides in 2010, the Taiwanese manufacturing giant installed safety nets to prevent workers from jumping off dormitory roofs at its Shenzhen plant. It tried to improve life for its workers: The company raised basic wages and installed basketball courts and Olympic-size swimming pools for recreation. Worker suicides declined but did not disappear.

Xu’s poetry gives voice to the alienation he and many others of his generation feel on the assembly line: “I swallowed a moon made of iron/ They refer to it as a nail/ I swallowed this industrial sewage, these unemployment documents/ Youth stooped at machines die before their time/ I swallowed the hustle and the destitution/ Swallowed pedestrian bridges, life covered in rust / I can’t swallow any more/ All that I’ve swallowed is now gushing out of my throat/ Unfurling on the land of my ancestors/ Into a disgraceful poem.”

A frequent theme is how he felt the monotony of factory life sapping away “the last graveyard of our youth.” In one poem, Xu wrote: “With no time for expression, emotion crumbles into dust/ They have stomachs forged of iron/ Full of thick acid, sulfuric and nitric/ Industry captures their tears before they have the chance to fall.”

Xu also described the desolate conditions of his rented room: “A space of ten square meters/ Cramped and damp, no sunlight all year/ Here I eat, sleep, sh–, and think/ Cough, get headaches, grow old, get sick but still fail to die/ Under the dull yellow light again I stare blankly, chuckling like an idiot.”

via Poetry of a Former Foxconn Worker in China Evokes Images of Factory Life – Businessweek.

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