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24 Feb 2020

Economic Rights Institute and Electronics Watch

China: Electronics workers expected to face withholding of wages and restrictions on freedom of employment

Protecting Chinese Workers' Rights During the 2020 Epidemic: Guidance for Public Buyers, 24 Feb 2020

[The report outlines the risks their authors] expect this [COVID-19] epidemic poses for workers’ rights: ...

  • [Covering] Living expenses without employment ... millions of Chinese citizens will find it difficult to promptly return to paid employment.
  • Discrimination... We should expect some employers to refuse to hire people from Hubei, even former Hubei residents who did not visit the province during the epidemic, afraid of the risks of infection from the virus.
  • Withheld income and restrictions on freedom of employment...
    • [C]onsequences from… [withholding wages include workers struggling to cover their living expenses and might lead to some workers resigning] and never receiv[ing] the income owed them for work they completed…
    • The withheld income will undermine employees’ freedom of employment, pressuring them to agree to employment conditions they might otherwise resist, worried they will otherwise lose income owed to them…
    • One electronics supplier scheduled students to intern with them for one month. But government restrictions prevented these students from returning home ... so the students found themselves forced to extend their internship two additional months.
  • Lost sick benefts

[The report further notes that] social auditing… will struggle to… [address] prejudiced employment policies [and the violdations faced by] employees who are forced to pay illicit fines when they resign, employees fired before they recover from illness, and employees fired before emergency policies preventing them from returning to work come to an end…

[The report concludes with recommendations for buyers.]