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.