Danish factory accused of union busting in China

A Danish-owned electronics factory in China is accused of sacking trade unionists and refuses to follow a court order. 'Not my responsibility,' says the company's CEO.

by Peter Rasmussen

(This report was posted in the website of 3F, United Federation of Danish Workers, on August 14th, 2008. ---- Editor of Globalization Monitor notes)

Trade unionists sacked. No employment contracts. No respect for the courts.

These are some of the accusations levelled by a local union at Ole Wolff Electronics, a Danish-owned electronics factory in the city of Yantai on the east coast of China.

Ole Wolff Electronics refuses to recognise a workplace union formed by the employees as a result of their dissatisfaction with conditions at the plant. Instead, the factory management decided to dismis six of the union activists, according to labour researcher Au Loong-Yu of the Hong-Kong-based NGO Globalization Monitor.

'The workers would not accept people being sacked for no reason, and they didn't have the formal contracts required by law. So they formed their own union, which was later recognised by China's official trade union movement, the ACFTU, in October 2006. It is highly unusual in China for workers to form their own workplace union,' explains Loong-Yu.

Court ruling: Re-hire the sacked workers

Loong-Yu explains that courts on two levels have since ordered Ole Wolff Electronics to reinstate the six sacked workers, but the factory continues to deny them access.

'The dismissed workers are in a desperate situation. Some of them can't get new jobs because the factory still has their work permits. The Yantai regional court found in favour of the workers in November 2007, but the company refuses to follow the court ruling and still won't recognise the union,' says Loong-Yu.

As a result, the acting chairperson of the union, Jiang Qianqiu, contacted 3F in Denmark for help. The Danish union contacted the company's CEO with a request to comply with the court order and recognise the union.

'Not my responsibility,' says CEO

The company's owner and CEO in Denmark, however, has no intention of respecting the labour rights.

'I don't know the whole truth about what's going on over there, so I can't say so much about the matter. The factory has a management that is in charge and handles that kind of thing. However, I am one hundred per cent convinced that the employees have excellent pay and working conditions, and that’s all I have to say on the matter,' says Ole Wolff to the 3F Newsletter.

That's not good enough, says the 3F local branch in Slagelse, who contacted the firm.

'Ole Wolff is responsible for his factory in China and for the employees who work there. To say anything else is a bad excuse. The company has to take care of these problems and stop this persecution of the union and its members,' says Niels Erik Danielsen, a union official at 3F in Slagelse.

The plant in Yantai has 100 workers that manufacture a number of electronic components. The company called Ole Wolff Manufacturing has offices and production facilities in Denmark, the USA, South Korea, China, Hong Kong, Finland, Germany and Great Britain.