Photo Credits: 艾特報
Editor’s Note: Beginning from the middle of May 2016, Walmart China began to impose an “integrated working hours” system across all its branches in China. This amounts to imposing flexible workings hour on employees and has drawn wide spread opposition from them. From 1st July, Walmart employees from four different cities came together and strike. This was made possible through the Walmart Chinese Workers’ Friendship Association, a Weixin twitter platform founded in 2014. Zhangjun is one of the founders. The platform now has twenty thousand subscribers, accounting for one fifth of all Walmart China employees. On 17th November, the New York Times released a report on the strikes. The Walmart Chinese Workers’ Friendship Association responded with the statement below. Besides from pointing out that the reporter failed to mention their association’s name, although it was this association that had helped the reporter to get in touch with the Walmart women workers for interview, the statement also points out that the Walmart workers who took action have not “by-passed” the official union. What is worth attention is that on 7th July this year the Association released a statement which stresses that they will, “continue to seek an independent and autonomous road of development”. Strictly speaking, the two statements are not self-contradictory. The new statement only points out that the association “has sought support from the local union”, but it has not told us whether this was successful or not. We have learned that there were few positive results from these attempts. The fact that the Association has made the point that it “has not by-passed local union” may reflect the difficult situation which autonomous labour activists face in China.
The original New York Times Report: Across China, Walmart Faces Labor Unrest as Authorities Stand Aside
- Beginning from 14th May 2016, Walmart workers began to launch resistance activities to integrated working hours using various Walmart Chinese Workers’ Friendship Association web platforms and WeChat groups. All of the Walmart Chinese Workers’ Friendship Association (hereinafter the Association) press releases, from the 1st until the 57th issued today including those from May onwards, were issued by our Association. Our Association provides Walmart workers from different places with suggestions about how to protect their rights and the drafting of rights protection legal documents etc. A New York Times report published on 16th November 2016 and signed by Javier C. Hernández entitled “Across China, Walmart Faces Labour Unrest as Authorities Stand Aside” said that, “Over the past few months, Mr. Wang, 56, has helped organise a national movement in China against Walmart. Labour strikes have hit stores in the south simultaneously”. “In recent months, as many as 20,000 people, about a fifth of the company’s work force in China, have joined messaging groups set up by Mr. Wang and other activists on WeChat, a popular app”. This report did not in the slightest mention or the truth about support for Walmart workers’ rights provided by our Association. In fact, our Association was founded more than two years ago. At the end of July this year Wang Shishu set up another “rights coordination group” which has no relation to our Association. The New York Times report also included interviews with two women Walmart workers from the Walmart Chinese Workers’ Friendship Association. The reporter had on many occasions tried to find the women workers to persuade them to accept the interview request, but it was not expected that the New York Times report would be so biased. One of the women workers called the reporter to question them about the interview report, but the reporter suddenly directly hung up the phone. Our Association cannot understand or accept such unreasonable attitudes and behaviour. News reports should follow the basic principle of reporting the objective truth. Our Association is deeply unhappy about the New York Times report. In view of possible subsequent developments to the situation as a result, the Association reserves the right to hold the false report legally responsible.
- As for the New York Times’ and other foreign media’s criticisms of the Chinese government and ruling political party, this is already contrary to the point of departure for pursuing Walmart workers’ rights. At the same time, the report did not focus on Walmart’s malicious violation of China’s Labour Law, Trade Union Law and other legal practices/relevant laws, and this does not help Walmart workers. These practices also make it disadvantageous for China’s Walmart workers to accept interviews with foreign media. The Chinese workers and the social community’s concern is with Walmart’s compliance with China’s laws and regulations and its social responsibility. This is the focus!
- Since 14th May, when China’s Walmart workers began to resist the integrated working hours system, Walmart workers have not “bypassing official unions controlled by the Communist Party” in carrying out action to pursue their rights, but have insisted on contact with the official trade union at all levels and on China’s Trade Union Law and other relevant laws and regulations in the defence of the legitimate rights and interests of China’s workers. And regardless of whether it involves the workers from the numerous Walmart stores in Nanchang in Jiangxi, Shenzhen in Guangdong, Chengdu in Sichuan or Shenyang in the Northeast etc., they all first seek assistance and support from the local trade union organisation and relevant government departments. Yu Tianyu, Walmart’s core rights worker representative has also been in contact with the All-China Federation of Trade Unions.
Walmart Chinese Workers’ Friendship Association
Chief Representative: Zhang Liya
News spokesperson: Zhang Jun
21st November 2016