Labor Violations Exacerbate Ethnic Tensions in South China

Jul 06, 2009, 19:20 ET from China Labor Watch

NEW YORK, July 6 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following was released today by China Labor Watch:

The July 5th events in Urumqi are a tragedy for both Uyghur and Han people. CLW hopes that events do not escalate further and that all residents of Urumqi will be safe.

The recent movement of Xinjiang migrant workers to factories in South China is an attempt to satisfy demand for workers there and demand for jobs in Xinjiang. Xinjiang government has encouraged this migration and even assisted in coordinating translators to accompany Uyghur workers. Most workers go willingly, given the poverty and unemployment problems in their hometowns in the poor regions of southern XJ.

Factory conditions in this region are extremely poor, wages are low and labor relations are intensely strained. Han and Uyghur workers have different lifestyles and cultural backgrounds and are unable to talk about these differences because of a language barrier. Without this ability to communicate, Uyghur workers may believe that discrimination targets them alone and not their Han co-workers. Finally, factories see workers as production tools and rarely provide training or educational opportunities that might allow Uyghur people to integrate into the community. In reality, Han and Uyghur workers alike are subject to a number of labor rights violations.

The Shaoguan factory is part of Early Light International Holdings Ltd., which produces toys for numerous multinational toy brands. In a recent investigation of a different Early Light Factory in Shenzhen, CLW identified a number of labor violations including unpaid overtime, poor dormitory conditions and illegal labor contracts. In the investigation, it was also discovered that the factory had transferred many orders to the Shaoguan factory which had lower wages of 28 RMB ($4.12) per 8 hour workday.

CLW has the following recommendations for Early Light:

  1. Allow Uyghurs workers to leave the factory at their discretion, and pay travel fees and severance payment. Early Light must not allow the families of these workers to worry about their safety.
  2. The factory and local government must organize training for workers who wish to stay in order to establish a healthy community of Han and Uyghur people.

CLW calls on the Chinese government, Uyghur groups, and international corporations to work together to improve labor conditions for Uyghur workers.

SOURCE China Labor Watch