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The dismissal of union chair Liu Yongyi from the Guangdong Federation of Trade Union’s own hotel building

In this short installment of China Labor News Translations, we bring you the story of the dismissal of union chair from a hotel building owned by the Guangdong Federation of Trade Unions (GDFTU). This profoundly ironic and deeply troubling story exploded in the Guangzhou media last month, and in addition to some excellent reporting, there have been a number of high quality op-ed pieces harshly criticizing the behavior of hotel management and the trade union.

The story of Liu Yongyi, trade union chairperson of the Guangdong Trade Union Building workers’ union, was fired after pushing too hard for workers’ interests is a familiar one; this sort of thing happens every day in China. What makes this story particularly galling is that the hotel that Liu works for is not only directly owned by the GDFTU, but is also where actually occupies the same building as the trade union’s office. This has led many to ask the question, if unions cannot operate without fear of illegal retaliation by management in companies owned by a trade union, where can they? The answer has to be, nowhere.

Though it is not directly addressed in the short piece we have translated, it has been widely noted in other reports that the manner in which Liu was removed from her post as union chair is in clear violation of the Trade Union Law. There are a few situations by which a union chair can be legally removed, but it requires consultation action on the part of the staff and workers congress or the trade union committee, neither of which happened in this case.

The op-ed piece we have translated is a good indication that the Chinese media is willing to take some risks in their reporting on labor. In this article the author has avoided the “bad apple” discourse, and his pointed out that this unfortunate event is the result of systemic deficiencies in Chinese trade unions. The author critiques the system whereby grassroots level trade union chairs are simultaneously employees of the enterprise, and argues convincingly that this severely impairs union strength and autonomy. In addition to the absence of the right to strike, this system is one of the largest factors in rendering the union toothless on the shop floor. Although reporting on this story came to an abrupt close before there was any resolution to the potential re-instatement of Liu, the initial outburst of reporting and public critique must be seen as a positive development.

CLICK HERE ACCESS THE TWO ARTICLES IN ENGLISH AND CHINESE

Union Chair at Hotel Owned by Guangdong Federation of Trade Unions Helps Employees Protect Their Rights, Angers Management, and is Laid Off

CLNT_hotel_report.pdf

广东工会大厦工会主席帮员工维权得罪领导被裁

The Real Story Behind a Union Chair’s Firing: salaries should be paid independently before they can have the guts to stand up

CLNT_hotel_op_ed.pdf

工会主席遭解雇前因后果 — 工资发放独立才有底气

This event has been of great embarrassment to the GDFTU, as it further undermines their rhetoric of “legal rights protection” and “harmonious labor relations.” Unfortunately, the GDFTU has not done anything thus far to lessen the damage to their reputation. GDFTU vice-chair Kong Xianghong (who our readers may recall denounced SACOM for tarnishing the image of China after they revealed labor rights violations in Nine Dragons) has made only one public statement during which he said that the union will “not take sides with either party”. More information about the Nine Dragons case can be found in the following media articles:

香港组织正面PK张茵:血汗工厂不是诋毁

广东总工会初步调查:玖龙纸业不算“血汗工厂

Guangdong Provincial ACFTU Finds Itself in Muddy Waters

The GDFTU chair’s response to both Nine Dragons and Liu Yongyi’s dismissal makes it quite clear that the union is not becoming a more representative organization in the manner that many had hoped it would.

Download this introduction in PDF format

CLNT_hotel_INTRO.pdf

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