It’s been a month since workers from a Shenzhen based factory started requesting the factory to pay back workers’ pension and other social security benefits.

Workers staged a strike shortly after the company failed to reach a satisfactory deal with workers. On the 15th day of the strike, the factory announced the dismissal of the six workers’ representatives actively involved in collective bargaining. On the same day, local police came and arrested nine workers. The New An Lun case demonstrates the obstacles and risks workers face in their fights for the rights they deserve.

New An Lun Lamp is a small factory in Shenzhen that employs around 100 workers and manufactures car lamps for the Taiwanese Milltech International. Since 13 April, half of its workforce started requesting the factory to pay back their social insurance accounts and housing funds tracking back to the day they joined the company.

On 28 April, the company lawyer finally met workers and announced that the existing law only requires the company to pay back two years’ due of social insurance. Since over 80 percent of workers have been working for New An Lun for over three years, the law obviously put workers at a disadvantage.

During the negotiation, workers staged work stoppage. The factory immediately posted a notice saying that workers have violated company’s disciplines and will face penalties for staging strikes. Workers, unafraid of the company threatening, continued the strike and demanded the company to attend to their requests as soon as possible.

In the meantime, the factory was planning to deliver the orders that workers have also completed, and workers decided to station at the factory to prevent the factory from doing so, in order to put more pressure on the factory to address their demands.

Official from local labour bureau, and social insurance bureau went to the factory to inspect the case, but were told the boss was not around. They later suggested workers should consider labour arbitration. Workers rejected the idea since the arbitration process is very time consuming and usually takes several months or years, which would workers at a further disadvantage.

In the evening of 12 May, two security parole officers came to the factory insisting on taking the completed products out. Workers stood firm and told the officers that they can only take the goods out when the factory addresses workers’ demands.

In the morning of 13 May, local police came and arrested nine workers, including seven female workers. One of them is workers’ representative. On the same day, the factory announced that it decided to fire the six workers who participated in the strike, although all of them won affirmation from the factory boss when they were elected as workers’ representatives.

Wang Jiangsong, a Beijing-based labour relations scholar who is active in voicing workers’ concerns and struggles on social media, posted an event briefing the next day on his weibo account and pointed out the factory’s dismissal of these workers’ representatives is in violation of Guangdong’s provincial regulation on collective contracts for enterprises, which states that the enterprise cannot sack workers’ representatives during the collective negotiation process.

“The Taiwanese boss is clearly clamping down on workers’ representatives so as to dodge its legal responsibilities (of paying workers’ social insurance),” Wang said on his weibo.

Workers also sent a petition letter to Taiwan based trade unions and labour organisations for help. At least ten organistaions have joined the petition condemning New An Lun’s intimidation and harassment towards workers and demanding the boss to address workers’ reasonable requests. The Taiwan civil groups also called on the Taiwanese government to perform its responsibility of overseeing Taiwanese businesses operating in mainland China.

“Ironically it is the factory workers in mainland China that suffer from the improving cross-strait relations. How can we Taiwanese trust this government?”


USi will follow up with the development of New An Lun workers’ campaign and update this post accordingly.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License.
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Jennifer Zhang

Jennifer Zhang is USi’s China coordinator based in Hong Kong.

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