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Fast-food Trio Blasted for 'Low Wage' Scandal
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China's senior trade union federation has taken McDonald's, KFC and Pizza Hut to task for "underpaying" workers in Guangzhou.

After media reports pointed the finger at the fast-food giants, a senior All China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) official said: "No company should enjoy special privileges in China. Irrespective of how big or strong a company is or who owns it, no company should be allowed to have in-house rules that violate the country's law."

In an interview with CCTV over the weekend, ACFTU security work department head Li Shouzhen revealed that the federation would provide the underpaid workers with free legal help. 

Last week, Guangzhou-based New Express reported that the major fast-food chains all stood guilty of "violating labor laws" by underpaying part-time workers, the majority of who are college students. The report detailed an undercover probe carried out by the newspaper which discovered that workers in the three fast-food chains were paid only 60 percent of the nominal wage while still working overtime.

This year, Guangdong's government set a minimum wage of 7.5 yuan (US$97 cents) an hour for part-time workers. However, McDonald's were found to only be paying 4 yuan (US$52 cents), KFC 4.7 yuan (US$61 cents) and Pizza Hut 5 yuan (US$65 cents) an hour.

McDonald's and Yum! Brands Inc, which owns both KFC and Pizza Hut have denied any charges of violating labor laws. An investigation is underway by local labor authorities whose report is awaited tomorrow.

The ACFTU has delegated the task to its Guangdong branch office, urging it to "get things clear as soon as possible", Li said.

"If the violations prove to be true, the federation will ask the companies to correct their wrongdoings," Li said. "If they refuse to do so, we will help the workers file a case against them."

With support from the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, the ACFTU will start a new campaign in May targeting companies found in breach of labor laws, including providing employment without proper labor contracts, failure to pay wages and underpayment.

Li also called for foreign companies in China to create trade unions, thus providing them with a platform to resolve employer-employee disputes.

(China Daily April 2, 2007)

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