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Huawei to suspend controversial employment scheme
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China's Huawei Technologies Co Ltd has agreed to suspend its controversial "voluntary resignation" scheme after talks with trade unions, the All China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) said Saturday.

The ACFTU said it called on China's biggest maker of telecommunications network equipment to protect workers' interests after its plan sparked fears that the company was trying to sidestep a new labor law.

The ACFTU and union organizations in Guangdong Province and Shenzhen City called on Huawei to solicit workers' opinions and respect their rights while making regulations related to their benefits.

Huawei would soon hold a workers' conference to review the interim regulations, sources with the ACFTU said Saturday. A company source confirmed on condition of anonymity they had reached a consensus with the trade unions.

He said the company agreed to suspend the plan but the exact date to implement the suspension will be decided after workers' opinions were solicited at the impending workers' conference since the plan was launched with the consent of workers.

Huawei initiated a plan, calling for its staff who have worked for eight consecutive years to hand in "voluntary resignations", according to the Nanfang Daily, a local newspaper in southern China's Guangdong Province, where Huawei is headquartered.

The staff would have to compete for their posts, and sign new labor contracts with the firm once they were re-employed, while those who lost out would receive compensation.

On Friday, officials with the Shenzhen Federation of Trade Unions met with a vice president of Huawei and the two sides reached a consensus on three issues, said an official with the ACFTU on condition of his own anonymity and that of the vice president. They agreed that:

- The company needed to create a welfare system to guarantee the workers' benefits and rights and in return, the trade unions supported the company's reform and innovation to unite the workers for the company's future development.

- The company needed to abide by the law, and to solicit workers' opinions and negotiate with trade unions while making regulations related to workers' rights and benefits.

- The company needed to consult with the workers on an equal basis while making contracts for workers' pay, working hours, vacations, work safety and insurance.

The Huawei vice president reportedly said the company always valued the rights and benefits of workers and respected their contributions, said the union official.

The staff reform had been aimed at increasing the company's competitive forces by rectifying outdated means of personnel management, the vice president had said.

It was carried out after consultation between the company and the workers, he had said.

The company had said it was willing to make efforts to protect the workers' rights with the help of the trade unions, according to the ACFTU official.

Critics said Huawei was making a last effort to avoid signing open end-of-labor contracts with its employees through "voluntary resignation" before the new labor contract law came into effect on January 1, 2008.

Under the law, which was adopted by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature, in June, employees who have worked for an employer for ten consecutive years are entitled to sign a labor contract that has no fixed term, on agreement by both parties.

The new law meant these "veteran" workers would become "permanent" employees, except in circumstances of willful resignation or retirement.

The ACFTU also called for better publicity of the new labor contract law and closer supervision of companies to avoid similar cases occurring.

(Xinhua News Agency November 11, 2007)

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