Tuesday, July 3, 2007

China’s New Labor Contract Law (I)

On June 29, 2007, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress passed the new Labor Contract Law of the P. R. China (“Labor Contract Law”). After four committee rounds of reading, consultations, and 190,000 or more public pieces of comments, the new law will go into effect on January 1, 2008, and it is expected to be a milestone for protecting workers’ rights across China.

Through a series of blog posts, I intend to introduce a snapshot view of the key clauses set forth in the Labor Contract Law. I hope that readers will have a better understanding of what the new law requires and expects of parties to an employment relationship, and that the enactment of another piece of legislation is but one small step forward in China’s long struggle to build a country under the rule of law.

Statutory Scope of the Labor Contract Law

This law applies to all corporations, privately-owned entities, Private, non-enterprise units and organizations who establish labor employment relationship with workers. Likewise, government agencies, institutions and social groups must comply with the labor contract law in their labor employment relationship with employees.

The net cast by the legislators is wide enough to afford broad protection to employees, workers, especially migrant workers from the countryside. Prior to the enactment of this law, most migrant workers enjoyed little to no legal protection, and they fell through the crack of the Lab law. In recent years, there have been widespread practices of abuses, mutilations, and downright savage treatment of those migrant workers. The slave worker scandal that broke out last month in Shanxi and Henan Province involved hundreds of migrant workers being abducted or forced into slave labor with little to no pay. The savagery gripped the world and shocked conscience of the country. At the same time, it revealed the extent of labor abuses despite the existing labor laws and regulations. In a sense, this law could not have arrived at a better time.

3 comments:

Beefeater said...

I think I'm right to state that Chinese employment law distinguishes between manual labour (劳动) and other forms of work (劳务), on the principle that the former kind of work involves a more unequal bargaining position. Does the new law apply only to the former or to all kinds of labour?

Brad Luo 罗竞雄 said...

Beefeater:

Good observation! You got me scrambling to read, the Labor Law , Opinions on Labor Law Implementation, and Labor Contract Law all over again.

You are right in saying that "Chinese employment law distinguishes between manual labour (劳动) and other forms of work (劳务)", but I disagree with you regarding "on the principle that the former kind of work involves a more unequal bargaining position."

If fact, the Labor law does not extend its protection to most 农村劳动者. Evening the bargaining power between what you referred to as 劳动 and 劳务, to my mind, was not part of the purpose of the Labor Law back in 1995 when it was enacted. (I will do further research to confirm.)

The new labor contract law, however, represents a vast improvement in terms of solving the unequal bargaining position problem, legislatively. First, the Labor contract law, if you notice, is not enacted based upon the Labor Law, so it is not restricted by the scope of it. Second, the new law adds a critical area where the country folks fell in the cracks of the Labor law--民办非企业单位等组织. Third, from the legislative background and history, it can be gleaned that the new law is intended to combat wide spread abuse of migrant workers who outnumber the traditional workers in work units, companies contemplated in the labor law. So, to answer your question, the new law does apply to all kinds of labor. That answer does come with a caveat though. I am not sure it applies to household maids (阿姨,保母), and similar types of labor who provide labor.

What do you think?

Anonymous said...

what is the difference between the labor law and new labor contract law?