Seven Labour Organizations have jointly signed an open letter responding against the suggestion to put aside the GuangDong Province Collective Contract of Enterprises  given by the Six Hong Kong Chambers of Commerce. The open letter has sent to the HKSAR Chief Executive, Liaison Office of the Central People’s  Government of HKSAR, International Labour Organization, All China Federation of  Trade Unions etc.

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12th May, 2014

To: International Labour Organization
Director General

Dear Mr Ryder

Seven Hong Kong Labour Organizations’ Open Letter responding against Six Hong Kong Chambers of Commerce on the Regulations of Guangdong Province Collective Contracts of Enterprises (the “Revised Draft”)

 On April 15th, six Hong Kong Chambers of Commerce have jointly sent an open letter to the Hong Kong Chief Executive and thirteen government departments regarding the release of the Regulations of Guangdong Province on the Collective Contracts of Enterprises (the “Revised Draft”). It was written in objection to the collective negotiation on wage, working hours, breaks and leave, social insurance and welfare etc between worker congress and enterprises; and also disagreed that enterprises must reply employees within 30 days after they raise their claims and sign the Collective Contract of Enterprises based on these grounds. They believe that the Revised Draft support and encourage employees to go beyond the scope of current policies to propose different terms such as wages and benefits to the enterprises without the restriction of law, which push the enterprises by their popular pressure. Therefore, they strongly criticized the Revised Draft as a regulation with “unequal content and unjust procedure”, and expressed a “serious disappointment and concern” in the letter. However, we strongly disagree with these invalid claims:

1. Labor Disputes should be tackled by collective negotiation

Six Hong Kong Chambers of Commerce have strong reservation on the “Revised Draft” as they believe that the current existing mechanism is already effective to tackle the labor disputes issues. Yet, this is not the fact. Most of the enterprise-level trade unions are controlled by the capital side. The worker committees are not democratically elected by workers and occupied by the management level. The trade union therefore cannot truly represent the workers during collective negotiation. The labor disputes issues increase rapidly in recent years and strikes are happening constantly. It clearly indicated that the current existing mechanism is ineffective to solve the problem. There have been more than 500 strikes in GuangDong province since 2011. The strikes are starting to last longer and longer, the numbers of participants are increasing, and the impact is becoming more substantial – all of which directly challenge the harmony among workers and the enterprises. For example, in February this year, more than thousands of workers in Sanda Kan Industrial Company Ltd, which locates in Dongguang, has initiated strikes because the enterprise refused to pay economic compensation for the relocation of factory and they dissatisfied with the unilateral decision making and urged bilateral negotiation. SandaKan is owned by Hong Kong based Kanda Group, which the CEO Kenneth Ting, is the former vice chairman of Federation of Hong Kong Industries. In fact, after the implementation of the Labor Contract Law, malpractices such as withholding wages, compulsory overtime, relocation without compensation, lack of employment contracts and failure to pay for social insurance have been found in many Hong Kong enterprises. Without collective negotiation, relationship between enterprises and workers will just getting worse.

2. Respect workers’ collective negotiation right

Six Hong Kong Chambers of Commerce has trampled on the right of workers’ collective negotiation in their letter. Acting purely from the viewpoint of capital, these Hong Kong chambers of commerce keep pressuring the Chinese government and the Hong Kong Chief Executive to intervene in the adoption of the Revised Draft. They irrationally pointed that the “Revised Draft” supports and encourages employees to go beyond the scope of current policies to propose different terms such as wages and benefits to the enterprises without the restriction of law. Yet, according to the Labor Law Article 8 and Employment Contract Law Article 4, the collective negotiation right is given to the workers clearly. “Revised Draft” is a concrete regulation on how the workers can practice their right which is definitely not something “goes beyond the scope of current practice” or “without the restriction of law”. It only shows that they indeed argued against the Chinese government policies

3. Playing the same game

In fact, this is not the first time that the Chamber of Commerce trying to stop the enactment of the collective negotiation regulation. This is a throwback to 2007, when the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce and the American Chamber of Commerce also explicitly attacked the rationale behind the Labor Contract Law. They used divestment as a threat and tactic to push the Chinese government, which eventually resulted in the revision of the second and third drafts of the law. Unfortunately, “the draft of the collective contract shall be presented to workers’ congress or all the workers for discussion and approval” was canceled in the third draft because of the unreasonable disapproval by the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce and the American Business Association. The power of the worker congress and the trade union are largely impeded and the implementation of collective negotiation has ended up unfulfilled. In 2010, Hong Kong Labor Organizations sent open joint statement to against the intervention of collective negotiation by the Hong Kong Capital. Without a regulation on collective negotiation that provides a healthy and effective consultation mechanism on workers’ deepest concerns, such as wages, compensation, working hours, and benefits, to maintain an equal dialogue under a rational, regulated and just framework that protects the interests for both workers and enterprises, the labor disputes will be intensified which seriously affect the harmony of the whole society.

We are here to strongly oppose to the suggestion given by the Six Hong Kong Chambers of Commerce that the “Revised Draft” should be put aside. We hope that the International Labor Organization can support the “Revised Draft” and the right of collective negotiation for the Chinese workers.

Yours sincerely,

Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour(SACOM)

Globalization Monitor

Labour Action China

Worker Empowerment

Labour Education and Service Network

Asia Monitor Resource Centre

The Chinese Working Women Network

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Contact Person: Alexandra Chan, Project Officer, SACOM

chenalexaa@sacom.hk (+852 2392 5464)

The Chinese version of the open letter can be downloaded here: 香港勞工團體反駁香港六大商