The Plight of Pearl River Delta Region Workers and Labor Conflicts : Trends since the Onset of the Financial Crisis

, par  China Left Review, MEI Shen

From 2005 to 2008, collective workers’ protest activities grew daily in China, with strikes producing greater and greater demands. As a result, the government had to come up with a new approach, which was seen in the 2009 passage of the Collective Contracts and Bargaining Law. After its passage, at the legal level there were certain benefits to workers. Notably, knowing that this new law had been passed, workers could use it to realize some of their demands.

In fact, however, this new law does not comprehensively protect the interests of Chinese workers since employers still can devise many ways around the law. The law is very clear about matters such as layoffs and firings only being allowed under specific conditions, or else severance payments are required. The law stipulates that if a worker is hired without signing a contract, the company can be fined up to twice the worker’s wages. If workers are laid off, they will receive a minimum level of compensation. It also requires companies to define work positions ; employers may not arbitrarily reassign workers to other posts to get them to leave. However, these components of the new law have not been carried out.

Employers have drawn up phony contracts that are basically devoid of content. For example, many skilled workers have salaries that range from 2-3 thousand Yuan monthly, but whose contract only gives them a starting salary of 1500 Yuan, and in some instances even as low as 900 Yuan. When they finish their probationary period, if there is a shortage in work load, they might end up reassigned to a less skilled assembly line position. In such a case, it’s very likely the skilled worker will quit.

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