Shenzhen Draft Law to Protect Labor Abuse

China News Digest, 8 July 2002

[CND, 07/08/02] In an attempt to heal labor rights abuses within the city, Shenzhen has drafted a law to protect workers' rights, often at the mercy of private businesses and joint-venture companies, reported the South China Morning Post (SCMP) on Saturday.

Shenzhen has been criticized for having a high rate of labor disputes. Because of a large and readily available pool of migrant labor coming from inland, Shenzhen's entrepreneurs have never been under pressure to protect their workers, reported the SCMP.

Now, both workers and employees are commenting on a new draft law, posted on Shenzhen's web site in June, reported the paper. They feel that the proposed legislation does not go far enough to protect their rights.

The draft law stipulates that unpaid and late wages, often a major problem for Shenzhen's laborers, must come at least once a month. Wages earned shall not be over five days late.

The draft law empowers the labor bureau to impose fines of 10,000 to 50,000 yuan (HK$9,428 to HK$47,145) if an employer fails to meet those standards within the allotted time. Additionally, overtime must be paid to workers, reported the paper.

According to reports, most workers who visited the web site were pleased with the new wage policy, although some think that their rights are not being sufficiently protected under the draft law.

WANG Yaoqi, a migrant worker from Jiangxi, believes that a fine of 50,000 yuan does not go far enough. It should correspond to the salary amount owed by employers, he said.

Local media reported about a factory owner who was 500,000 yuan behind in paying his workers at the beginning of 2002.

Some workers have suggested that the government blacklist companies that exploit workers. Under such a program, said the workers, the firms could not renew their business licenses until the wages were paid.

Said one worker about unscrupulous operators, They should not be allowed to leave the country.

Nevertheless, some entrepreneurs counter that parts of the proposed regulations are too severe and anti-business, reported the SCMP.

HONG Jun, the owner of a print shop, commented that the new draft law will raise the cost of doing business. Fines will backfire, Hong said. The only result will be that enterprises will move out to cities that have more lax regulations, he said.

The draft law stipulates that companies give full pay to women on maternity leave. Workers on sick leave or too injured to be on the job shall receive 60 percent of their wages.

Analysts who favor the draft law say that it makes clear the responsibilities of employers and employees. Labor disputes will be more easy to resolve, these analysts say.

However, fair and even enforcement will still be a problem, say the analysts. (Sue Bruell)