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Chinese Wal-Mart Employees Protest Layoffs

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FW:  Aprill 18, 2015
Published on Mar 20, 2014

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Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, abruptly closed

more than 10 stores in China in recent months.

Laid-off workers began to protest the settlement.

For days, banners and protestors were seen outside

of local stores.

On Thursday morning, several Wal-Mart employees

at the Maanshan branch in Anhui Province were arrested

during the protest.

Also, Wal-Mart Union president at the Changde store

in Hunan Province was invited to "have tea" --an expression

meaning an interrogation and a warning— with the police

for his support of the protest.

Professor at China Institute of Industrial Relations,

Wang Jiangsong, posted a March 19 blog regarding

the escalating capital-labor caused by the closing

of Wal-Mart chain stores in China.

He took the Changde Wal-Mart store in Hunan Province

as an example, where the Union President

led all store employees in a labor rights

protest against the closing of Wal-Mart.

He stated that the Secretary of Changde Commercial

Bureau defended the company and claimed

to have dispatched police to arrest the protestors.

Wal-Mart Union President of Changde, Huang Xingguo

signed a power of attorney to the Vice President and said,

"If I am arrested, you'll continue!"

At noon on March 20, NTD called Huang Xingguo,

Wal-Mart Union President of Changde.

Huang Xingguo, Wal-Mart Union President of Changde:

"I just came back from the police station.

The district Political and Legal Affairs Committee secretary

warned me that our behaviors have violated the laws,

saying that the employees have hampered

with public order at the store.

He wanted me to conduct positive talks to encourage

everyone to leave the premises."

The Political and Legal Affairs Committee demanded

that Huang Xingguo personally guarantee his team

will stop all "illegal" activities, however, Huang argued

that the protests at the store are legal.

On March 5, at the Changde Wal-Mart branch Huang

Xingguo issued a notice of store closing on March 19.

He led the protest because more than 100 store workers

were displeased with the announcement.

Huang Xingguo: "This store closed on March 19.

But, on the same day, workers from elsewhere

came to replace the previous employees.

Our employees feel their rights have been violated.

We are all capable laborers able to fulfill our duties.

We refused to accept this unilateral termination

by corporate."

Wang Jiangsong said, "There are more than 400 Wal-Mart

chain stores in China.

They are stationed in the Chinese market taking

advantage of internationalism.

They make money by closing a store that was earning

enough and opening the new one."

Wang Jiangsong, Professor of China Institute

of Industrial Relations:

"At the beginning it (Wal-Mart) was taking advantage

of cheap labor.

But the demands are higher due to inflation, so are the wages

and benefits, as well as consciousness of the worker's rights.

So, now they continue the capital operation by closing

old stores and opening new ones, one after another."

Wang Jiangsong explains that Wal-Mart China has operated

with the tactic of profitting at the expense of labor rights.

Wang Jiangsong: "Last year they closed more than 10 stores.

Some (employees) voiced their resistance, but the majority

did not and got kicked out.

But, this year, it's different.

Employees started to protest from Changde to Maanshan."

Wang Jiangsong says that Maanshan branch employees

protested on March 20 due to lay offs.

A large number of special police rushed to the scene

and arrested several employees.

The rest were expelled from the store,

the majority being women.

Our reporter called the Maanshan Walmart

to ask for details.

The operator explained they were transferred over from other

stores and were unaware of the situation.

The reporter tried Wal-Mart's headquarters in Shenzhen

but was given another number in Beijing.

However, no one answered the call in Beijing.

Wang Jiangsong believes closing a local branch

is definitely the decision of the headquarters.

Since there's no clear regulation in China regarding shutting

down stores, closing stores has become a legal way

to conduct layoffs for financial reasons.

Wang Jiangsong: "They unilaterally declared the store closing

without any discussion with the Union

or the employees, or following the one month's

advance notice in accordance with the law.

Once the store is closed, with a very low settlement,

workers who have worked for Wal-Mart for years

would encounter issues of benefits, insurance,

and more."

Wang Jiangsong indicates that these laid off workers

have sought help from Business Bureau, Labor Picketing

Battalion, Bureau of Labor, and Trade Unions.

However, rather than providing support, these units assist

Wal-Mart by calling police to arrest the workers.