Unionist sacked for defending staff fights for his reinstatement

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 June, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 29 June, 2007, 12:00am

The sacked head of an authorised Guangzhou factory union has appealed to a district labour bureau for reinstatement after he was fired for 'speaking up for the workers'.

Lei Hanping , union chief of the Guangzhou Chemical Reagent Factory, was sacked in May.

He was apparently told he had violated factory rules by 'running riot with other workers and restricting others' freedom', Guangzhou Daily reported.

Mr Lei has filed an application for arbitration with the Haizhu district labour bureau but, despite two hearings, a decision in the case has not been made.

'It was the first time we received a case like this and we are asking for instructions from our superiors,' a bureau member said yesterday.

The factory's deputy manager, identified as Mr Xu, said the dismissal related to an incident in April when the company fined two workers 500 yuan each for improper behaviour.

The workers had posted a newspaper article on a factory noticeboard about allegations that the management stole company shares from workers.

Mr Xu said the two workers were dissatisfied with the fines so Mr Lei and more than 20 workers surrounded another deputy manager in an office for about 12 hours.

The workers said they would not let him go until he withdrew the punishment.

'If Mr Lei wanted to consult us, he and the two workers involved would have been enough. Can you call a 30-person gathering a consultation?' Mr Xu asked.

'The worst thing was that they restricted another person's freedom for nearly 13 hours.'

According to Guangzhou Daily, Mr Lei said all he wanted was to protect the workers' rights. He regretted doing little for the workers after more than 10 years with the union, he added.

'I thought I would be a sinner if I did not speak out this time,' Mr Lei said.

Huang Zhiming, a consultant with the non-government Little Bird labour assistance hotline in Shenzhen, said the mainland's union system could cause similar conflicts in the future.

'How can unions have the power to protect workers if they are not elected by the workers themselves?' Mr Huang asked. 'The enterprises can totally control them.'

He said he did not believe workers would gather together for no reason.