Workers fight for their livelihoods as pressure builds on China’s retail sector
Workers at a supermarket in Foshan returned from the Golden Week holiday in early October to discover that their boss had skipped town and the store was completely empty.
The workers, along with several local suppliers, occupied the store in the hope of catching the boss upon his return. Eventually, the local labour bureau, the police and neighbourhood committee members arrived at the scene and paid the workers a portion of their wages.
The workers were reluctant to sue their boss because they had not signed labour contracts and feared the courts would reject their case. However, workers without contracts can in fact pursue legal action if they have sufficient proof of a labour relationship such as pay stubs or other documentary evidence.
About 20 workers occupied a clothes store in Suzhou on 25 October when it became clear the boss was planning to close the business.
The saleswomen had worked at the Qianjiahui Apparel Emporium for a month but had never been paid. When several movers arrived at the store and packed up all the merchandise, the workers were spurred into action and occupied the premises for a whole day and night.
Workers then took their case to the local labour inspectorate who called the boss in for mediation. The boss retaliated by firing all the workers. Though none had signed labour contracts, they received all their back pay, overtime, and additional compensation for being dismissed without one month’s notice, as required by Chinese labour law.