(This is a translation from the Chinese which was originally posted at 沃爾瑪中國員工聯誼會的博客)
From March 2015, besides the three great beliefs of respect for the individual, the pursuit of excellence and customer service, each of WalMart’s stores in China began to publicise a fourth great belief, namely to act with integrity. Prior to this, WalMart’s senior management had already spoken about integrity, however they had only required employees to be concerned with integrity, while themselves acting dishonestly towards employees. Regardless of whether it concerns labour management or union elections, they are very dishonest. More than 90% of employees have profound experiences and strong feelings about this.
Are Wal-Mart unions democratically elected by workers? Do Wal-Mart unions protect and fight for the legitimate rights and interests of workers? Do Wal-Mart unions and employers participate in “collective wage negotiations” on an equal basis?
Each worker will remember that before the establishment of trade unions at Wal-Mart, every year wages increased by a rate of 10-12%, and at highest up to 14%. But since the establishment of unions and union chief representatives in 2007, the wage increase rate has been reduced from 9% in the first year, to 8% in the second year, to 7% in the third year, to 5% last year and to 4% this year. In these years the increase in the price of rent has far exceeded the growth of wages and therefore the real income of Wal-Mart workers has been declining year on year. In these years, the government has promulgated an annual growth rate of the minimum wage of not less than 15%, yet our wage increase rate, negotiated for us by these representatives, has declined year after year, while our lives have faced increasing hardships. Wal-Mart’s sales and wealth have continued to increase but the wealth gap between our workers and the company and its executives has become larger and larger and our living conditions have become increasingly worse.
According to the provisions of the “Trade Union Law”, trade unions are mass organisations of workers and staff formed voluntarily. But what about Wal-Mart unions? The union chairperson and chief negotiations representative Ai Ronggang is the deputy general manager of the headquarters operations, a B7 level and above senior management personnel, while the main negotiations representative, Wang Ying, is the implementation of standards team director and manages the regional and store general managers. Through their representation the Wal-Mart union committee and the employers conduct “collective wage negotiations”. Is this not the employer negotiating with itself? Is this not entertainment for the employer? Is it not openly mocking and making fun of the employees? Is this not a flagrant violation of the law?
Eleven of the collective bargaining representatives are all employers’ high or mid-level management and simply do not represent the frontline general employees (B1/B2 level) who account for more than 85% of the Wal-Mart employees. How can we count on these Wal-Mart “dignitaries” to speak and act for us frontline workers? How are they able to represent the majority of us frontline workers in collective bargaining with the employers? It is most important that we never elect them and authorise them to represent us in collective bargaining with the employers. We even suspect that they are given preferential treatment by the employers and maliciously manipulate the trade union and suppress and retaliate against employees who dare to stand up for their rights, making the trade union an out-and-out bosses union, a puppet union and a yellow union.
In the few short years since 2006, Wal-Mart has concocted yellow unions in its stores throughout the country and put on an act of engaging in collective wage consultations. However during the collective consultations we have never seen a lot of the key profit and financial data. And the union elections which are manipulated by the employers are illegal. The Shenzhen Federation of Trade Unions has made a call to “return the power of the trade unions back to the workers”. The majority of Wal-Mart employees have a sufficient legal basis to prevent Wal-Mart capital from manipulating the union again and to make the union play its proper role and to protect the legitimate rights and interests of the hundreds of thousands of Wal-Mart workers so that they can live with dignity. To act in accordance to the will of the people is what makes our cause just. According to article 6 of the ACFTU’s “Measures for Producing an Enterprise Union’s Chairperson”, persons responsible for enterprise administration (including deputy administrators), associates and their close relatives, human resources department heads and foreign workers cannot be candidates for enterprise union chairpersons. Again, according to article eleven of the “Measures of Shenzhen Municipality for the implementation of the People’s Republic of China’s Trade Union Law”, legal representative of the employer, general managers, deputy general managers and those holding similar posts, personnel department heads and their close relatives must not serve as the union’s chairperson, vice-chairperson, standing committee member, committee member or budget monitoring committee member. As Wal-Mart’s union chairperson and union committee are representatives of the employer, and this is illegal, how can they represent the interests of the employees and safeguard their legitimate rights? Look again at the previous results of the collective consultation; the interests of all the workers have been damaged. Fellow colleagues, it is time to stand up. They are illegal and unjust, whereas we are legitimate and just. We must use legal weapons to protect ourselves and depose the illegal Wal-Mart unions. As Chinese citizens and workers, we also have an obligation to promote union progress. We must take actual action in response to the Shenzhen Federation of Trade Unions, the Guangdong Province Federation of Trade Unions and the ACFTU in relation to the deployment of promoting direct union elections, and by means of workers’ power restructure the Wal-Mart unions, recapture control of the unions from foreign capital, and establish union committees which implement genuine democratic election, democratic decision making, financial disclosure and the practical upholding of their obligations to protect the workers. Only when this is done can the union committees win the full support of all union members. Only if all union committees win the trust of their members and accept their members control can they truly become the representatives and defenders of employees’ legitimate rights and interests, able to really promote the healthy development of labour relations and the market economy and able to promote social equity and justice.
On the 6th of April 2015, Zhang Liya, a meat worker, at one of Wal-Mart’s first stores since it established itself in China in 1996, an old Sam’s Club, which is now called Shenzhen Futian District Xiangmihu Wal-Mart store 1059, finally had the courage to stand up and expose Wal-Mart’s false trade unions and false workers’ representatives and their series of dishonest acts. During rest times in the staff locker room and by putting up posters on the outside walls, Zhang publicised Wal-Mart’s dishonest acts to other workers and gained the endorsement and support of frontline Wal-Mart workers, who very much agreed with this.
On the 7th of April, the management tore down the leaflets that Zhang Liya and other workers had put up inside the store but Zhang and others continued to put them up. On the afternoon of the 8th, the management of store 1059 held a meeting to plot to find fault with Zhang Liya to make them quit…… We will continue to monitor developments.