Hong Kong-based China Labour Bulletin has posted a 12-part FAQ on labor issues in China, covering legal rights, the minimum wage, collective bargaining, dispute resolution, and the various roles of local governments, the Party-dominated All-China Federation of Trade Unions, and civil society.
What rights do workers have under the law?
Workers’ rights in China are set out primarily in the 1994 Labour Law, the 1992 Trade Union Law (amended 2001), the 2008 Labour Contract Law (amended 2013), the 2008 Labour Dispute Mediation and Arbitration Law and the 2008 Employment Promotion Law. Individual employees have the right to an employment contract, a minimum wage, a 40-hour working week with fixed overtime rates, social insurance covering pensions, healthcare, unemployment, work injuries and maternity, severance pay in the event of contract termination, equal pay for equal work, and protection against workplace discrimination. Workers also have the right to form an enterprise trade union (see below for more details), and the enterprise union committee has to be consulted by management before any major changes to workers’ pay and conditions are made.
How is the law enforced?
Local governments in China are responsible for enforcing labour law and ensuring that workers’ rights are protected. However, the local labour authorities are generally under-funded and under-staffed and lack the ability and the will to enforce the law. For many years, governments were far more concerned with boosting the local economy and creating a business-friendly environment than in protecting workers’ rights. It has largely been up to the workers themselves to ensure that the law is enforced by demanding that wages and overtime are paid in full and on time, proper contracts are signed, social insurance contributions are paid in full and that compensation is paid in the event of injury or contract termination. [Source]
When disputes arise, CLB notes, local authorities often push for short-term solutions to paper over the disturbance. Many environmental protests have met similar responses, with sometimes dismal results. Read more on strikes and labor rights in China via CDT.