Blacklists unfair to firms, says legal expert

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 December, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 December, 2005, 12:00am

A Guangdong government blacklist of companies that violate labour rights, including withholding wages, has proven effective in shaming errant employers into changing their ways - but a lawyer warned the system may be biased towards workers.

Guangzhou was the first city to announce it would draw up a blacklist after the provincial government shamed 20 companies in Shenzhen, Dongguan, Zhuhai and Foshan, leading to 12 paying their outstanding wages bills. The eight companies that did not settle were either liquidated or had been abandoned by their owners.

'The situation has improved a lot in Dongguan because the government is cracking down. The only problem remains in privately owned decoration businesses and the construction sector,' said Huang Jianhua, a lawyer with Everwin Law Office.

'The number of cases of owed wages is on the increase, but that is because workers are more aware of their rights and how to use the law to protect their rights.'

However, Mr Huang cautioned there was a tendency for labour and legal departments to be biased towards workers, which could lead to pressure on courts to make judgments in their favour.

'It's already happened in Guangdong, but I can't mention the case. If judges do not decide in favour of workers, they take to the streets,' he said. 'We need to protect workers' lawful rights, but we must not allow emotions to affect our judgment.'

Sun Yat-sen University labour expert Huang Yan said the blacklist was a short-term solution to the exploitation of workers.

'The fundamental solution still lies in drawing up complete labour legislation,' he said.

More than 66 per cent of mass petitions in Guangdong last year involved back-pay disputes, largely in the construction sector, in which a total of 1.1 billion yuan was owed.