Foreign bosses warned

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 August, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 August, 1995, 12:00am

CHINA has highlighted labour unrest in joint venture factories and warned foreign employers not to prevent workers striking.

The Workers' Daily yesterday reported on a strike by 600 women at a South Korean clothing factory and another at the prestigious Palace Hotel in Beijing, run by the People's Liberation Army General Staff and the Peninsula Group.

Newspapers rarely report strikes unless they are in joint ventures although official statistics point to a sharp rise in labour disputes in recent years.

But yesterday's front-page story backed strikers with the headline: 'If you make money on Chinese land by using Chinese labour you must abide by Chinese law.' The 600 women stopped work for four days at the end of June at the South Korean Li Da factory at the Qinhuangdao economic and technology zone in Hebei province. The newspaper said their demands included shorter hours, wage rises, the right not be beaten or insulted, and a labour contract.

It said that according to labour laws, the women should not be asked to work more than 36 hours overtime a month. The women said the long hours were unbearable and they still had to do domestic chores when they got home.

The South Korean manager rejected their demands, firing five of the ring leaders and penalising nine others. The firm had been fined 50,000 yuan (HK$46,600) the month before but the paper said it had 'failed to draw any lessons'.

The dispute was taken to the labour union of the development zone's joint ventures and foreign investment companies but the report said its leader was ineffective.

'The salary and welfare are paid by company bosses so it is hard for them to safeguard the rights of workers. Before this action. the chairman of the labour union had been shunted aside,' the paper said. One of the foreign managers had interfered with the union's work by smashing the chairman's telephone, it said.

After weeks of tough negotiations, the workers won their first pay rise in two years and a guaranteed day off each week. A new woman was elected chairman of the union and overtime was limited to no more than 36 hours a month.

In addition, the Communist Party committee of Qinhuangdao announced the formation of a labour union federation for workers in foreign-investment enterprises. Production targets will now be set jointly by shop stewards, trade union representatives and the foreign managers.

At the Palace, four workers resorted to barricading the hotel entrance with a bus to win reinstatement earlier this month. The hotel had suddenly decided to fire the four drivers who had been working there for up to eight years.

Forty colleagues protested last Friday and after talks the manager agreed to reconsider. The Workers' Daily charged the management with failing to abide by Chinese labour laws, which require advance notice of 15 days and one month's compensation.

Chinese officials also backed the protest but said it was wrong to resort to radical measures. The workers have yet to win other demands, which include a pay rise.