Despite a relatively favourable labour law and existing state institutions to protect workers, the working conditions in Chinese factories are often miserable. Solidar Suisse gives legal advice to victims of occupational diseases in two Chinese cities.
In China, factory workers are still faced with miserably poor working conditions. They frequently work 10 to 14 hours per day, risk their health, lack access to social protection and have to struggle to defend their rights. Discontent and frustration about poor labour conditions lead to many protests and strikes. Due to very effective Chinese censorship these are hardly even noticed outside of the country.
Solidar Suisse has been supporting its Hong Kong-based partner organization, Labour Action China (LAC) for many years. They help victims of occupational diseases. For example, LAC helps silicosis and benzene victims with legal assistance and to obtain compensatory payments. Given the long-term nature of these diseases and the rapidly changing industrial landscape (factory closing or relocation), it is hard to hold companies accountable and achieve appropriate compensation.
LAC is also engaged in awareness activities. They helped make possible the film “Complicit“, the story of a worker, victim of benzene poisoning.
The local partner’s legal action helped produce a 2017 report of the high court of the Quangdong Province entitled “Explanation about Difficult Issues in Adjudicating Labor Disputes”. This should allow the lower courts to offer better protection to victims of work-place related poisoning. However, at the same time, the newly enacted NGO Law has made it more difficult for organisations like LAC to be active. Local partners are no longer allowed to accept direct foreign help.