Shanghai Sees More Labor Disputes

The number of labor disputes in Shanghai has been rising by more than 40 percent annually over the past three years.

Many of these cases are thought to be the result of infringements of employees’ legal rights, according to local trade union officials.

Disputes in privately owned and joint venture companies are most numerous, making up one third of the total 12,300 cases that went through legal arbitration last year.

Big international companies do better in observing the law than small ones from Taiwan and Southeast Asia, according to trade union legal experts.

The rise in the number of disputes echoes the development of these enterprises. Four years ago, disputes in state-owned enterprises were more numerous.

Disputes over payment make up more than 35 percent of all cases. Pensions and contract problems make up 25 percent and 20 percent respectively.

“Small companies, such as new computer and software companies, are the most likely to infringe the legal rights of employees and are where labor disputes often happen,” Liao Mingtao, a lawyer working for the legal department of Shanghai Municipal Trade Union Council said.

However, “many employees whose legal rights have been infringed upon have not taken legal action because they cherish their job as there is an oversupply of labor,” said Liao.

The trade union council found that some companies avoid giving employees extra money for overtime by paying for the work done instead of hours worked.

“Some 7.1 percent of enterprises didn’t pay on time, and 4.1 percent of them do not give extra pay for extra hours,” said a report given by Wu Shenyao, vice-chairman of the trade union council.

Problems concerning contracts are also too serious to be neglected. About 20 percent of employees have not signed their contracts legally -- they should be given a week between reading the contract and signing it -- stipulated by the Labor Law.

Around 18 percent of employees also feel that their employers only partially adhere to their contracts. Another 4.8 percent of firms do not sign contracts at all.

“By not signing labor contracts, employers can get rid of workers at any time and do not have to pay employees’ pensions,” said Liao.

In addition, there are companies that put regulations in contracts which are against the Labor Law. Examples include stipulations that workers who do not buy company shares should be the first to be laid off.

(China Daily 03/20/2001)

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