Activists accuse HK firms of defying mainland labour law

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 13 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 April, 2008, 12:00am

Some Hong Kong companies are still exploiting workers in their mainland factories, despite the new Labour Contract Law, according to an activists' group.

Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (Sacom), a group formed by university students and backed by local and overseas academics, said its investigations had uncovered instances of exploitation involving five Hong Kong enterprises.

It said long-term workers were being employed on a temporary basis and were entitled to only two holiday breaks a year.

Because they were not on permanent contracts, they were not covered by workplace injury policies or other work benefits.

Three of the five Hong Kong enterprises alleged to have exploited workers are listed companies - Nine Dragons Paper Holdings, Hung Hing Group, and Dream International.

Sacom's study, released yesterday, was based on interviews with 83 factory workers in Dongguan , Shenzhen and other manufacturing centres in the past six weeks.

It found the employers did not provide workers with permanent contracts or overtime pay.

Workers' wages were often overdue and subject to arbitrary deductions.

They had to work for an average of 12 to 13 hours a day.

A spokeswoman for Nine Dragons Paper Holdings said: 'We cannot make any comments at this stage because managerial staff are at a conference in Europe and cannot be reached.'

Nine Dragons Paper is the largest containerboard manufacturer in China and one of the largest packaging containerboard manufacturers in the world.

The other two listed companies could not be reached for comment on the study.

Sacom is demanding all Hong Kong enterprises operating on the mainland comply with the Labour Law and Labour Contract Law to protect workers' rights.

'Of the enterprises we investigated, Nine Dragons Paper had the worst labour exploitation conditions,' said Vivien Yau Tze-wei, Sacom's project co-ordinator.

'We think their major investors should take up their social responsibility by putting pressure on them to improve the working conditions.'

She said the students' associations at Chinese University and Baptist University were planning to boycott the company's products.

Sacom members are also planning to protest outside Nine Dragons' office in Wan Chai tomorrow.

Employers have railed against the Labour Contract Law, which came into effect at the beginning of the year.

They say it has increased their costs and threatened their survival by making it compulsory to sign open-ended contracts with long-term employees, provide insurance and pay overtime.

Paper money

Sacom says many of Nine Dragons Paper Holdings' workers in Dongguan are paid in yuan per hour: 5.2