Chinese version only, please refer to :
- Job Opportunities
- Investigative Report on Workers’ wage and Living Expenses in Four Tier Cities in Guangdong Province
- co-signed: An Open Letter for the International Human Rights Day
- Statement: Stop the Violent Eviction of the Urban Poor; Respect the Housing Rights of the People
- co-signed statement: Release worker representative Fu Tianbo and resume collective bargaining at FAW-Volkswagen
- Endorsed letter: Response to Uniqlo – RE: Outstanding severance owed to Jaba Garmindo workers
- Our report cited in: Hotel workers fight back in low paid service jobs
Investigative Report on Workers’ wage and Living Expenses in Four tier cities in Guangdong Province
Investigative Report on Wages and Living Expenses for Workers in 4 Cities in Guangdong
Worker Empowerment (WE) has been following minimum wage adjustment in China for years by conducting surveys on wage level and living expenses of workers. It is persistently found that the minimum wage policy is influential on workers’ base wage level, making a minimum wage level which guarantees workers’ livelihood of vital importance.
In April 2017, we notice that the Guangdong provincial government announced the plan to freeze minimum wage adjustment in the province for three consecutive years, given that a total of 22 districts in other provinces raised the local minimum throughout the year. Currently, the minimum wage level has exceeded 2,000 yuan in Shenzhen, Shanghai, Beijing, Tianjin and Zhejiang, which is the highest in the whole country.
However, the minimum wage in Guangdong did not only remain the same for three years, but also stay below 2,000 yuan, even in Guangzhou where the minimum wage level is the highest within the province. WE are deeply concerned about the impact of the minimum wage freeze on workers’ livelihood in the area. How much is the actual living cost of Guangdong workers for these years? How do they deal with basic necessities and other needs in life? How should the Guangdong provincial government adjust the minimum wage to protect workers and their families?
In a survey conducted between September and November 2017, we collected worker samples from 4 cities where different tiers of minimum wage are paid in Guangdong respectively – first tier (1,895 yuan) in Guangzhou, second tier (1,510 yuan) in Dongguan, third tier (1,350 yuan) in Huizhou, and fourth tier (1,210 yuan) in Heyuan.
We conducted a questionnaire survey on workers’ monthly wages, overtime hours, personal living expenses, social security contributions and family financial burdens. A total of 78 valid questionnaires were collected, including 16 from female and 62 from male workers. We also invited workers from three different types of household in Guangzhou and Dongguan to record their monthly expenditure record in detail in October 2017. In addition, a market price survey was also conducted from October to November 2017, in different shopping malls in Guangzhou and Dongguan to know the price of daily necessities for workers. As a result, we managed to compare and analyse wage levels and living expenses of workers in different cities in Guangdong and have a more comprehensive picture on the daily living needs of workers and their family, and the extent to which these needs are satisfied by the current wage levels.
After a series of survey on workers’ wages and expenses i4cities in Guangdong, WE have the following important findings:
(1) In general, wage level of workers in this survey is significantly lower than the local average wage.
Taking just the base wage into consideration, the wage level of most workers is below 40% of the local average wage. The ratio only rises to 60% only by including other wage components, such as overtime payment and other subsidies. In this survey, most workers earn between 3,000 yuan and 4,000 yuan per month, but their basic wage is a lot lower -more than 60% of the workers earn a base wage of less than 2,000 yuan, which is not much higher than the local minimum wage. Similar situations are observed in a variety of industries and sectors. This shows that employers are still accustomed to paying workers by the minimum wage. Hence the phenomenon that “minimum wage is almost workers’ highest base wage” still prevails.
(2) Workers expenses are severely imbalanced: workers get used to low consumption and burden high cost for development.
It is found that most workers economise hard on food, clothing and entertainment and personal development. They spend 1,015 yuan per month on average for subsistence (food, housing, clothing and other groceries). With all other costs included, the average expenditure rises to 3,073 yuan per month.
Across all categories, food accounts for the largest share of workers’ daily expenses, followed by housing. However, most of them can only afford cheap but poorly maintained accommodation. They seldom buy clothes regularly, and also strictly refrain from excessive grocery shopping and spending on leisure and entertainment. Many workers do not spend on transportation at all by commuting on foot instead of public transport, except visiting their hometown once a year. Most workers also has neither budget for skill training or further education nor the opportunity to do so.
On one hand, although workers’ wages exceed the survival cost (including basic food, housing, clothing and grocery), they are accustomed to consuming at low level to meet such subsistence requirement. For food, housing, clothing and such basic living necessities, workers live in lower quality than standard. On the other hand, workers invest more than double of their survival expenses in meeting development needs, particularly healthcare and family financial burden. It is argued that for those workers with low income, they still sacrifice their personal life quality to meet their family development needs, trying hard to catch up with social development.
(3) There is a clear differential between wage levels in different cities, but not much in workers’ daily living expenditure.
The survey finds that workers in higher-tiered cities earn a relatively higher wage and are better covered by social security, while the situation reverses in lower-tiered cities. However, the level of expenditure of workers in the 4 cities does not show a proportionate difference. Most workers save on food, clothing and living expenditure, but are generous to their children and parents. On average, workers in the 4 cities pay over 1,000 yuan a month to support their family. some spend even more, reaching 2,000 yuan per month, like workers from Huizhou.
Few workers live with their families in urban cities, since living costs in the cities are high. According to their expenditure records, workers who live with their families in the city spend at least 3,000 yuan a month for the whole household. The similar expenses among different cities also aggravate the burden on workers. For example, we see from the market price statistics that there is very little difference between Guangzhou and Dongguan on the necessary living expenditures. The investigation of workers’ daily necessities in four cities also display that the average expenditure on each item is mostly similar and within one-hundred-yuan difference in the four cities. It is argued that the market prices and living expenditures in different cities in Guangdong are slightly different, but the difference is not big at all.
(4) Social security fails to ease the financial burden of workers; workers’ capacity to save differ drastically.
Social insurance in the four cities does not fully cover the medical needs of all workers, while costs for many services and medication are not reimbursed but self-financed. From workers’ spending pattern, we can see that the social security model in China nowadays still heavily rely on individual families instead of sharing the risk across society as a whole. It is still common for people to rear children and expect their children to look after them when they get old. Family is also where they turn to in in need and retirement, making it essential for everyone in the family to go out for work, make money and contribute to their family members like children and parents.
Workers’ saving capacity also differs by age and consumption habits. For example, workers in Huizhou are above 40 on average, while those in Heyuan are under 30 on average. Huizhou workers, on one hand, spend the most on healthcare and supporting their family among four cities; on the other hand, they manage to save the most. On the contrary, young workers in Heyuan spend the most in entertainment, and they spend the least on saving and supporting their family and in the 4 cities. However, workers in all 4 cities become financially vulnerable to accidents or sudden illnesses, especially in condition that they are not under adequate social security protection.
In view of this, we make the following suggestions on the adjustment of the minimum wage:
(1) The minimum wage level should meet the needs of both workers and their family.
Taking data of local consumer prices, spending habits and actual needs of workers into account, we estimate the minimum level of earnings that a worker need to support a family of a 3 in an industrial zone in Guangzhou. We suggest that to live a decent life with no area of needs in life being particularly compressed, a family of 3 in Guangzhou would spend at least 7,510 yuan per month. Assuming that there are 2 working adults raising a child, the minimum wage per adult should reach 3,755 yuan. Likewise, a family of 3 in Dongguan would spend at least 6,877 yuan a month; and 2 working adults in the family should earn at least 3,439 yuan per month.
(2) Local minimum wage should reach at least 40% of the local average wage.
At present, it is impossible to have daily needs met if a worker earns the local minimum wage level in Guangdong. It is losing the guiding significance to workers’ wage that it had in the past. We argue that the minimum wage for Guangdong workers must be set back on track as soon as possible and the bottom line should be 40% of the local average wage. The Guangdong government should recognise that low-income workers should also share the fruit of economic development in recent years. Although there are regional differences, 40% of the local average wage should be the lowest standard for workers’ minimum wage, and this standard actually coincides with workers’ average base wage in the 4 cities in our survey. Therefore, we propose that the local minimum wage should reach 2,970 yuan in Guangzhou; 1,922 yuan in Dongguan; 2,159 yuan in Huizhou city; and 1,884 yuan in Heyuan.
(3) Ideally, the minimum wage level should meet 60% of the local average wage in order to meet workers’ developmental needs.
Our findings show that workers spend disproportionately on developmental needs. If 40% of the local average wage fails to meet the real developmental needs of workers, we suggest that the minimum wage should eventually be in line with 60% of the local average wage, so as to make up for workers’ developmental expenditures when they are not fully covered by social security protection.
Click to see the full report (in Chinese only)：2017年广东省四类地区工人工资与生活开支调查报告
Click to see the Indonesian translation of the executive summary of this report edited by Redaksi KSN (in Indonesian only): Hasil Survei Upah Buruh dan Biaya Hidup di Empat Kota di Provinsi Guangdong, China
An Open Letter for the International Human Rights Day
An Open Letter to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
by 14 Hong Kong NGOs
On the International Human Rights Day
Re-affirm our Stance on the Universality of Human Rights
Call on Concern of the Rule According to Draconian Laws &
Follow-ups to Rights Violations in China
The Honourable Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
CH-1201 Geneva, Switzerland
Dear Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein,
On 10 December 1948, the UN General Assembly adopted without opposition the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Upon the premise that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”, the UDHR has for more than half a century been the bedrock for the universal values that underpin the protection and promotion of basic human rights.
Today, as the UDHR approaches its 70th anniversary, we, the undersign groups, reaffirm hereby our stance with the universality of human rights as enshrined in this milestone document. We call on the international attention on China’ tendency to rule according to draconian law. We also urge the various UN human rights mechanisms to closely follow instances of rights violations in this country where the biggest population in the world live.
As a member of the UN Human Rights Council, and state party to a number of core human rights treaties, China should have the unassailable obligation to strictly and comprehensively observe the international human rights standards and principles.
However, the human rights record in China has never been satisfactory and it has gone worse since Xi Jinping took power in 2013. The Chinese government has, on the one hand, worked to restrain the civil space with coercive measures. Not only has it cracked down on civil society groups, arrested rights lawyers in large scale, detained citizen reporters, feminists and labour rights activists; the case of the Causeway Bookstore has also strongly suggested the practice of cross-border law enforcement by mainland officials. On the other hand, with the rhetoric of “rule by law” with Chinese characteristics, the Chinese government has openly defied the universal value of human rights. By legislating and revising large amount of law and regulations, the authorities have not only expanded the government’s executive power, but also legalised and institutionalised its acts of rights violation.
The 2014 Counterespionage Law, 2015 Counterterrorism Law and the National Security Law, 2016 Cybersecurity Law as well as the 2017 National Intelligence Law have all been common in their imprecision, allowing thereby board and arbitrary power to monitor and repress dissent voices and freedom of expression with no effective check and balance.
The Charity Law and the Law on the Administration of Activities of Overseas Non-Governmental Organizations within the Territory of China, effective respectively on 1 September 2016 and 1 January 2017, were both designed to target rights-based non-governmental organisations in and outside of the country intending to reduce their space and capacity for monitoring rights violations.
The Criminal Law in 2015 and the two Measures in 2016, respectively on the Administration of Law Firms and on Lawyers Practice, were revised with new provisions hostile to rights lawyers, creating the leeway for the authorities to dominate the criminal procedure. The amendments made to the Regulation on Religious Affairs adopted in June this year are clear in their intention to cut back on the freedoms of thought and belief.
We believe that in China where the three powers of government concur, “rule by law” is in effect the rule according to draconian laws that relentlessly corrode the basic rights of the citizens and the healthy development of the civil society.
It is disturbing to note that governance basing on rule by severe law has also become imminent in Hong Kong over the past few years. After breaching its promise for universal suffrage in Hong Kong, the Chinese leaders have more than once called on the collaboration of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the government in the city. The Hong Kong SAR government has in its turn been recklessly acted to destroy some of the basic principles of rule of law by taking law as a tool for selective prosecution and for interfering into the independence of the Legislative Council, for instances. The Co-location arrangements, as they are now presented, will go as far as to allow full implementation of the Chinese law by mainland law enforcers inside the territory of Hong Kong, regardless of the pledge for One Country Two Systems.
As members of the civil society, we firmly believe that human rights as universal value is the consensus of all modern civilized societies. It is bound to be respected and shall be protected by law. Human rights, rule of law and democracy are symbiotic for their healthy development with none of them dispensable.
On the occasion of the International Human Rights Day, we reiterate our stance with the UDHR, and the provisions stipulated in the various international instruments including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment as the basic guidelines in the protection and promotion of human rights.
We call on the international community as well as the people in China and in Hong Kong to take heed on the human rights violations by the Chinese government and to speak in one voice on universality of the international standard and principles of human rights.
We call on you, Commissioner, for your continual attention and close follow-ups on the situation of rights violations in China via means of the various mechanisms including that of the Office of the High Commissioner, the Human Rights Council, the Universal Periodic Review, Treaty Bodies as well as Rapporteurs and Working Groups of the Special Procedures.
Thank you for your attention.
We, the undersigned, are 14 NGOs from Hong Kong
(in alphabetical order)
China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group 中國維權律師關注組
Christians for Hong Kong Society 基督徒關懷香港學會
Civil Human Rights Front 民間人權陣線
Democracy Groundwork 小麗民主教室
Friends of Conscience 良心之友
Globalization Monitor 全球化監察
Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China
Hong Kong Christian Fellowship of City Concern香港基督徒社關團契
Hong Kong Christian Institute香港基督徒學會
Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions 香港職工會聯盟
Justice and Peace Commission of the Hong Kong Catholic Diocese天主教正義和平委員會
Labour Action China中國勞動透視
Progressive Lawyers Group法政匯思
Stop the Violent Eviction of the Urban Poor; Respect the Housing Rights of the People
On November 18, 2017, a fire broke out in Daxing District of Beijing, a suburb densely populated by low-income migrant workers. The fire killed at least 19 people and injured 8. After the fire, in the name of “improving the cityscape”, the Beijing Municipal Government embarked on an illegal eviction of migrant workers by force, while cutting off their electricity and water supplies. Tens of thousands of grassroots residents were forced out of their homes when temperature hovered around freezing point.
We (a group of civil society organisations) are outraged at how the authorities treated its people as “low-end population”. These internal migrant workers are in fact the cornerstone of China’s astounding economic growth. Since the economic reform, hundreds of millions of migrant workers are drawn to the cities from their rural hometowns and become the engine that powers the thriving industries. However, these workers are often denied reasonable wages, regardless of their hard-work. As a result, most migrant workers are unable to afford dignified living conditions in the cities. Worse still, municipal authorities also deem migrant workers as disposable “others”, and exclude them from the urban social security system through the Household Registration (Hukou) System. Thus, migrant workers’ needs and rights are often neglected in urban planning, education, medical services and other policies.
The Household Registration (Hukou) System has been adopted by the Chinese Government not only as a means to control the population, it also deprives the “migrant population” of citizenship rights in places other than their municipality of origin. The System has become such a deeply rooted belief and it continues to exploit the labour of the “migrant population” at the expenses of their social protections and well-beings. In past decades, the institutional discrimination against migrants has been further reinforced by the Chinese Government, as they are regarded as second-class citizens and the first to be sacrificed when crises emerge. During the financial crises in 2008 and 2012, for instance, the government drove out unemployed migrant workers and forced them to move back to their hometowns.
The fundamental cause of the Daxing fire is that the government failed to resolve the safety risks occurring in the urban sprawl in time. However, the Beijing Municipal authorities unreasonably shirked responsibilities to the “migrant population”, as if all the urban problems are simply caused by the migrant population’s “refusal to leave”, disregarding the fact that the development of the city has been built on the exploitation of these low-income migrants. Instead of resolving the fundamental issues, the fact that the authorities have used the Daxing fire as an excuse to evict the migrants to “make the city a better place” is undoubtedly like climbing a tree to catch a fish. To make matters worse, the unhealthy wind of the “eviction of the low-end population” has also been taken up by other provinces and cities. As reported, migrants in certain districts of Shenzhen and Guangzhou have also received eviction notices. The local authorities will need to immediately stop these discriminating and violent actions, before further humanitarian disasters emerge!
We believe that protecting the people is the responsibility of any government, and we demand the Beijing Municipal Government to:
1) Stop forced eviction immediately and actively facilitate the resettlement of the evictees;
2) Recognize the grassroots population as important stakeholders in the city and ensure their freedom of movement, right to housing, work, education and medical service are respected in government policies;
3) Hold the administrative organs and the staff accountable for the illegal actions and violation of people’s rights in the forced evictions;
4) Compensate all the financial losses of the residents affected by the forced evictions.
Note： Administrative Compulsion Law of the People’s Republic of China, Article 43 Administrative organs shall not conduct administrative enforcement at night or on a statutory public holiday, except for in an emergency. Administrative organs shall not force the parties concerned to perform the relevant administrative decisions by such means as cutting off the supply of water, electricity, heating or gas for the living of residents.
Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions
Justice and Peace Commission of the Hong Kong Catholic Diocese
League of Social Democrats
Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China
Asia Monitor Resource Centre
Labour Education and Service Network
Labour Action China
Student Fight For Democracy
Civil Human Rights Front
Land Justice League
China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group
Hong Kong Chef Union
Concerning Grassroots’ Housing Rights Alliance
Community Development Alliance
China Labour Bulletin
Councilor Chu Hoi-dick’s Office
Ekklesia Hong Kong
Neighbourhood and Worker’s Service Centre
Industrial Relations Institue
Social Movement Resource Centre(Autonomous 8A)
LU Workers Concern Group
Progressive Lawyers Group
HK Psychologists Concern
Hong Kong Association of Women Social Workers
Reclaiming Social Work Movement
Society of HKBU Social Work
Hong Kong Federation of Social Work Students
Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union
Progressive Teachers’ Alliance
Grassroots Development Centre
Labour Rights Commune
Hong Kong Association for Democracy and People’s Livelihood
LIPS Labour Resource Centre (Indonesia)
Forum Worlds of Labour (Forum Arbeitswelten e.V. ) (Germany)
National Union Confederation (Indonesia)
Worker’s Initiative Kolkata (India)
Korean House for International Solidarity (Korea)
Socialist Party of Malaysia (Malaysia)
Just Economy and Labor Institute (Thailand)
SÜDWIND Institute (Germany)
IG Metall (Berlin)
LabourNet Germany (Germany)
Unifor Retiree Council Lower Mainland (Canada)
Committee for Asian Women (Malaysia)
(last updated November 30, 2017)
On the first anniversary of the struggle of agency workers at FAW-Volkswagen in Changchun for equal pay for equal work, we call on the Changchun municipal authorities to immediately release worker representative Fu Tianbo and for FAW-Volkswagen to return to the negotiating table.
Fu Tianbo, who led more than a thousand agency workers in their campaign to be paid the same and treated the same as regular employees at FAW-Volkswagen, was detained in May 2017 and has been charged with “gathering a crowd to disrupt public order.” He remains in detention awaiting trial.
Volkswagen has so far turned a blind eye to the fate of Fu Tianbo and the other agency workers whose long-standing grievances over pay and working conditions remain unresolved. FAW-Volkswagen must return to the negotiating table and engage in good faith collective bargaining with worker representatives so that a mutually acceptable resolution to the dispute can be arrived at.
China’s Labour Contract Law and Volkswagen’s own Charter on Temporary Work both recognize the rights of agency employees to equal pay for equal work and it is imperative that Volkswagen and FAW (one of the most profitable car manufacturing companies in China) honour their commitments to their workers.
China Labour Bulletin
Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU)
Asia Monitor Resource Centre (AMRC)
Worker Empowerment (WE)
Globalization Monitor (GM)
Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM)
Labour Education and Service Network (LESN)
Paul Paternoga, IG Metall and Social Democratic Party of Germany
Dr Darius Sivin
Paul Paternoga, 德国金属产业工会会员，德国社会民主党员
Dr Darius Sivin
Group Senior Vice President
Fast Retailing Co., Ltd.
1st November 2017
RE: Outstanding severance owed to Jaba Garmindo workers
Dear Yukihiro Nitta,
Thank you for your response to our letter received on the 12th September 2017.
We understand that Uniqlo wishes to deny responsibility for the rights of Jaba Garmindo workers on the basis that 1) notice was provided to the factory in advance of withdrawal and 2) that Jaba Garmindo was not a major buyer. We wish to explain why we disagree with this position and continue to call on Uniqlo to take immediate action to resolve the issue of outstanding severance.
Firstly, it is of course impossible for us to know what was discussed between your company and Jaba Garmindo owners prior to the withdrawal of orders. However, we do know that Uniqlo made no effort to communicate their concerns regarding production quality, or their intention to withdraw, to either of the established unions operating at the Chipuka factory.
For a brand to withdraw responsibly from a factory, it is essential that the possibility of, reasons for, and proposed time-frame for any withdrawal of orders is communicated directly to the workers in advance. This is to ensure a) that the workers themselves are aware of what is required to keep future orders and can negotiate possibilities for doing so and b) that the union can check that the supplier follows correct legal procedures in the event of closure, including making sure that severance entitlements will be paid.
Had Uniqlo involved the union in the negotiations around the withdrawal of orders, their representatives would have had more possibilities for action to prevent the severance violations prior to closure and workers may not have been left in their current positions. Your failure to take this basic and very simple step means that Uniqlo failed to carry out the required due diligence obligations necessary for protecting the rights of Jaba Garmindo workers at the time of withdrawal. To rectify this failure Uniqlo must now do anything it its power – up to and including directly paying the outstanding severance – to ensure these legal rights are fulfilled.
Secondly, workers report that Uniqlo was far from a minor buyer. Worker testimony makes clear that production for Uniqlo represented a significant proportion of their work in the year or so prior to closure.
Perhaps even more tellingly, workers also report that the arrival of orders from your company led to a noticeable shift in working patterns. That Uniqlo was able to directly influence production methods and organisation within the factory suggests that Uniqlo did indeed exert significant influence over Jaba Garmindo. Whether this influence was a result of Uniqlo’s power and influence in the industry, or of specific orders, this demonstrates that Uniqlo’s importance and leverage over Jaba Garmindo management was significant prior to closure.
The UN Guiding Principles state that businesses must use all their leverage to uphold rights within their supply chains. In a supply chain context, this leverage is not defined simply as the portion of the factory’s production dedicated to the buyer in question. Rather, it also must take into account other factors – including the influence and size of the company as a whole. It is therefore not sufficient for Uniqlo to rely on unproven claims regarding production percentage in order to evade responsibility for the fate of the Jaba Garmindo workers.
Finally, although Uniqlo claims their withdrawal had no impact on the closure, this does not fit with the facts on the ground – namely that Jaba Garmindo went into bankruptcy within weeks of Uniqlo removing its business. While it may be true that the withdrawal of Uniqlo from Jaba Garmindo was not the sole cause of the company’s bankruptcy, it seems likely that it was a significant factor in the ultimate closure of its factory.
The money owed to Jaba Garmindo workers was accrued by them throughout their working life, including through the period they were producing for Uniqlo, and the failure to pay them what they are owed is therefore tantamount to wage theft. While the most immediate obligation fell to Jaba Garmindo to ensure these accrued wages were saved for workers and protected in the event of bankruptcy, we believe that Uniqlo failed in its obligations as a responsible buyer by not verifying that the company was making such provisions. This obligation was particularly key given that Uniqlo had made a decision to withdraw orders, and knew or should have known that there was therefore a risk of retrenchment of some of all of the workforce. The failure to pay severance in such cases in a widespread violation and should have been considered in Uniqlo’s preperations for withdrawal. As such, we believe Uniqlo shares the responsibility for the factory’s failure to pay workers the severance that they were due.
For the reasons above, we believe that Uniqlo has the responsibility to ensure that the Jaba Garmindo workers are made whole, and has the resources to rectify this violation. As such, we will continue to urge Uniqlo to ensure that the remaining 5.5 million owed to this particular group of workers is paid as soon as possible.
Finally, we note in your letter that Uniqlo is now looking into ways of supporting ex-Jaba Garmindo workers in seeking employment. We have some serious concerns about this proposal.
After consultation with the workers’ representatives, we can note that the workers themselves are sceptical of the outcome of any such efforts. Employers in the garment industry are notorious for only employing young workers and are unlikely to be willing to employ ex-Jaba Garmindo workers, many of whom are older. There is also a concern that – as Uniqlo has little or no production in the Chipuka area – any scheme of re-employment would require workers to move a long way from their homes, something that most workers are unable to do. Finally, after their experience at Jaba Garmindo, it would be reasonable for worker to decide not to take up another job with an employer or a brand which has so little regard for their legal rights. Our experience with similar efforts in other contexts leads us to share this scepticism.
It is important to note however, that even if re-employment efforts could be designed and implemented, in conjunction with the workers and in an effective manner, this course of action does nothing to address the actual issue: that Jaba Garmindo workers have not been paid the severance that they are legally entitled to. Any re-employment efforts must be conducted in parallel with action to ensure that workers receive the compensation that they earned; they can not be considered as an “alternative” to provision of severance.
Uniqlo, and its parent company Fast Retailing, is one of the biggest retailers in the world: it has publicly stated it has ambitions to grow even more rapidly. This size and growth brings with it obligations for Uniqlo to behave ethically and morally in respect to the communities operates in. The closure of Jaba Garmindo has had a devastating impact on one such community, yet – although the cost of remedying this impact would be minimal for a company the size of Uniqlo – the workers continue to wait for justice.
We urge Uniqlo to act now and do the right thing for the Jaba Garmindo workers.
Samantha Maher, Clean Clothes Campaign, International Office
Tono Haruhi, Yokohama Action Research (YAR)
Laura Ceresna-Chaturvedi, Kampagne fur Saubere Kleidung
Kiki Yeung, SACOM and representative of Clean Clothes Campaign East Asia
Thulsi Narayanasamy, War on Want
Rena Lau, Globilisation Monitor
Sheung So, Labour Education and Service Network
Hyun-phil Na, Korean House of International Solidarity
Jason Chan, Labor Action China
Yuk Yuk Choi, Worker Empowerment
Valerie Nichols, China Labour Bulletin
Hotel workers fight back in low paid service jobs
China’s hotel workers are among the lowest paid in the country, though they account for more than their fair share of resistance to poor working conditions.
Although the hotel industry accounts for only 1.5% of employment, according to official statistics, hotel workers make up 2.6% of all worker collective actions, according to CLB’s strike map; in services alone, hotel worker actions account for 15% of strikes and protests in the industry so far this year.
The hotel industry is just the latest example of how low pay and poor working conditions stand behind the booming service industry. According to the latest government statistics, hotel workers are among the lowest average paid of any industry:
Source: 2016 China Labour Statistical Yearbook
A new report (in Chinese) by Hong Kong-based labour rights organisation Worker Empowerment (WE) provides an unprecedented look into the lives and struggles of service sector workers, including those in the hotel industry. A survey of Shenzhen hotel workers last year showed that only half of workers had a labour contract, and worked for alarmingly low pay.
Far below government statistics, the WE report showed that pay among workers at hotels in Shenzhen, one of China’s most expensive cities, is between 2,000 to 3,000 yuan per month. In 2017, Shenzhen’s government set the local minimum wage at 2,135 yuan per month.
Hotel workers are subject to the same poor conditions regardless of the level of luxury of their workplaces. Labour conditions in five star high-end hotels are not necessary better than in their three-star counterparts: only about 55% of workers surveyed have a labour contract, 36% are interns whose contract conditions are negotiated between schools and hotels, not the students themselves. Meanwhile, agency or dispatch workers, who have no direct contractual connection with the hotels they work for, make up about 10% of the workforce surveyed by WE.
While most staff are low paid, income gaps within hotels can be enormous. In one hotel surveyed by WE, the chief executive earned around 100 times the salary of the lowest paid employee: front line staff earn around 2,000 yuan per month – barely enough to make it to the next pay cheque – while a general manager behind a desk makes 200,000 yuan. Salaries for middle management and other senior administrative positions hover between 3,000 to 6,000 yuan, according to WE.
The situation is even worse for those working in the associated services of the hotel, like bars and restaurants. Karaoke bars at hotels, for example, employ service staff with a monthly minimum wage of 600 yuan.
To make matters worse, application of flexible working hours leaves many front line staff with few chances to clock in overtime or holiday double pay, forcing them to work extra shifts late at night or during holidays with none of the legally mandated overtime compensation.
Incidents in the hotel industry are often smaller in scale than those of other industries, but they occur in every corner of China, from the most developed cities to the farthest reaches of the country.
On 14 August three cooks in Gansu threatened to jump from the roof of a hotel where they worked, protesting wage arrears. Police reported that, after they intervened, their boss paid their wages while the workers were placed in administrative detention. A week earlier a handful of workers at the Zhizhen Hotel in Xi’an blocked off the entrance to the building in a demonstration protesting pay deductions. Just last Monday, a group of workers at a hotel spa threatened to jump from the top of a building protesting wage arrears.
Demonstration by Zhizhen hotel workers in Xi’an, Shaanxi province earlier in August.
Low wages, income disparities, lack of labour contracts, increasing informalisation and deteriorating working conditions have set the stage for increased levels of labour unrest. Workers are ready to stand up for themselves and reclaim their fair share. If their demands are not addressed and deteriorating labour conditions persist, employers and relevant government agencies should not expect them to just go away.
Worker Activism and Collective Bargaining
Restore Meng Han’s Freedom, Stop all Surveillance Now
MENG Han, a Guangdong labour activist, was released on 3 September after 21 months’ wrongful imprisonment. He was sentenced for “inciting a crowd to disturb public order” because he was merely participated in organising workers in collective labour disputes. We, the undersigned Hong Kong labour organisations, would like to reiterate that Meng was simply defending basic labour rights and exercising the right to freedom of association which, by no means, constitute any criminal offence.
Besides, we are deeply concerned for his personal freedom. Although Meng has reportedly expressed his willingness to continue participating in labour rights movement, he remains under the unlawful 24 hours’ surveillance by the authorities.
The International Labour Organization’s Committee of Freedom of Association (ILO-CFA) published an interim report last November responding to the complaint filed by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) against the Chinese Government on the arrests of labour activists, which has urged the Chinese Government to take the necessary steps to ensure that freedom of association is protected and the released labour activists should be allowed to continue to provide advisory services to workers without hindrance. Therefore, we are aggrieved that Meng’s personal freedom and his right to defend labour rights are persistently infringed by the Chinese Government. We solemnly demand that the Chinese Government must:
1. Ensure Meng’s personal freedom and basic human rights are not to be violated;
2. Ensure Meng can continue to offer any advisory service and organise workers for the defence of their own labour rights without any unreasonable restriction and violation;
3. Stop the arrests of all activists and the suppressions of civil society and labour movement.
Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions
Labour and Education Service Network
Labour Action China
Asia Monitor Resource Centre
Students and Scholars against Corporate Misbehaviour
WE are excited to publicly announce our new publication at August, 2017.
New publication: Research Report on the Labor Condition of Service Industry Workers
PDF download here 点此下载 2017年服务业工人劳动状况调查报告集
(只有中文版Available in Simplified Chinese character only.)
For more details welcome email to firstname.lastname@example.org