Leave for Chinese Workers Affected by Earthquake

To:Primary Contacts, WRC Affiliate Colleges and Universities
From:Scott Nova
Date:May 15, 2008
Re:Leave for Chinese Workers Affected by Earthquake

There are millions of migrant workers in China’s industrial areas who come from Sichuan, the province devastated by Monday’s earthquake. Some of these workers have family members who were injured or killed or who have lost their homes. As a result, there are many workers who are seeking desperately to return home.

In response to the tragedy, the Labor and Social Security Department of Guangdong Province has issued an urgent policy memo to all provincial labor officials (Guangdong is China’s largest area of export production). The memo directs officials to urge factory managers to grant paid leave, upon request, to workers from Sichuan and other affected provinces who are seeking to return home. Officials have also been directed to ask employers not to lay off workers from these provinces.

The degree to which factory managers will follow this guidance from the provincial government is unclear. We believe that strong encouragement from a factory’s customers will help to ensure that managers act properly. For this reason, the WRC is writing to licensees with major sourcing operations in China, asking them to contact their suppliers in Guangdong.

In addition, we are urging licensees to contact suppliers in other provinces to ask these suppliers to grant leave to affected workers, when requested. While provincial authorities in these other provinces have not yet issued guidance similar to that issued in Guangdong, this nonetheless seems to us to be a reasonable request for licensees to make of their business partners, given the depth of this humanitarian crisis.

Finally, we are asking licensees to consider working with suppliers to try to provide financial assistance to those workers whose families been gravely harmed by the earthquake. There is, of course, no code of conduct requirement that such assistance be provided — instead, we are urging licensees to consider doing so on a humanitarian basis.

I wanted you to be aware of this outreach effort to licensees. We hope it will help to ensure that factory managers act humanely toward workers whose families have suffered in this tragedy. If you have any questions or would like to discuss the issue further, please contact me at your convenience.

I have included here links to several documents:

1) The text of our communication to licensees

2) The text of the Guangdong Labour Department’s urgent memo (translated by WRC staff in Hong Kong; see section 3 of the memo for the relevant recommendations for employers)

3) News coverage of the earthquake from China’s English language press

Scott Nova
Worker Rights Consortium
5 Thomas Circle NW
Washington DC 20005
ph 202 387 4884
fax 202 387 3292
[email protected]