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Labor Law Faces Overhaul in '12
Summary:Next years is likely to see changes to the Labor Law, which was implemented in 1995 and sets a maximum of 44 hours work a week.

By Jiang Yunzhang (降蕴彰)
News, page 3
Nov 21, 2011
Translated by Zhu Na
Original Article:

China’s Labor Law, which has been in force for 16 years, is likely to be amended in 2012.

The regulation was described as a “milestone” when it was implemented – the country’s first comprehensive code on labor relations – but it still has shortcomings, loopholes and imperfections.

An official from the All-China Federation of Trade Unions said that the biggest topic of discussion has been working hours. According to the law, employees shouldn’t be made to work for more than eight hours a day. The current law allows for a weekly average of no more than 44 hours a week, whereas the State Council’s provisions on working hours stipulate “eight hours a day, 40 hours a week.”

“What carries more authority the Labor Law or the State Council’s provisions?” asked one of the trade union’s officials, before answering, “Of course, where labor is concerned, it should be the Labor Law.”

The union worker called for the State Council to revise its provisions, and not to replace Labor Law with the provisions from the State Council, which would undermine the law’s authority and could weaken workers’ rights. Another unionist says that the law isn’t properly enforced and anyway has many loopholes.

The official also cities the widely-reported case of KFC and McDonald’s in 2007, whose part-time student workers in Shanghai were paid less than the legal minimum wage. The union tried to help the student workers, but the case was lost on the basis of a document prepared by the predecessor to today's Ministry of Labor and Social Security. The ministry’s Opinions On Some Issues Concerning the Implementation of the Labor Law stated that “students doing part-time jobs in their spare time are not regarded as in employment, and labor relations have not been established.”

The same document stated that soldiers, maids, students and retired workers aren’t covered by the Labor Law either. In fact, the law doesn’t give any explanation of who qualifies as a “worker”.

Over the last few years, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress and the State Council have promulgated a number of laws and regulations in the area of labor law, such as the Labor Contract Law and the Employment Promotion Law, which show that the central government is trying to build a basic framework for labor protection. 

In recent years the number of labor disputes has increased, with more than 300 strikes registered around the country last year.


This translation was edited by Will Bland.


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