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Foreign Labor Disputes in Shanghai on Rise
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The number of local labor disputes involving foreign employees jumped by 50 percent during the first half of this year compared with the same period last year, with most disagreement involving the sudden termination of a work contract, labor officials of Shanghai said yesterday.

The Shanghai Labor and Social Security Bureau received a record 13,759 labor disputes in the first half of this year, 40 times the figure from 1987 when the country resumed its labor arbitration system.

About 60 of the cases were filed by foreigners who signed work contracts with local employers. The bureau only received 40 cases from foreigners in the first half of last year.

"Although foreigner-related disputes accounted for only a small fraction of the total 10,000-something cases throughout the city, the jump is still considerable concerning the increased percentage," said Sui Wei, vice director of the bureau's arbitration division.

Most of the foreigner-related cases focused on wages or severance from employers who suddenly terminated work contracts after falling into economic difficulties, officials said.

One such case was filed by a French man who has been working for a local firm for more than 10 years. His employer suddenly terminated his contract earlier this year in the face of business failure.

The company promised to pay six-month salary as severance pay. But the French man said he was also entitled to a year-end bonus for last year, compensation for the sudden termination, and payment for not taking work with a competing company, as his contract required. He was asking for an additional 980,000 yuan (US$122,500).

The case ended after arbitrators supported part of the employee's request. The company was ordered to pay him 550,000 yuan.

Sui said that as foreign employees' labor rights and obligations are based on their work contracts, foreigners should make sure that they have a valid work permit and sign a formal contract.

(Shanghai Daily July 26, 2006)

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