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11 Mar 2020

China Labour Bulletin (Hong Kong)

China: Returning workers' safety and compensation remain in question as Hubei province set to gradually resume normal production

“Hubei set for a gradual return to work”, 9 March 2020

Hubei, the province at the centre of the covid-19 epidemic in China, is scheduled to resume normal production on Wednesday 11 March. However, it is still unclear exactly how that resumption will be coordinated.

While all other provinces have already implemented measures to facilitate a return to work, the Hubei government has continually pushed back the date for the resumption of non-essential industries because of the heightened risk of infection…

A definitive provincial government policy has yet to be announced but it seems more likely that there will be phased resumption of production starting with those districts and enterprises with a lower risk of infection…

Business leaders have stressed the need for the Hubei government to come up with a clear plan that can guarantee supply chain integrity, allow staff currently under lockdown to resume work, and ensure businesses have sufficient protective equipment for returning workers.

Across China as a whole, the government estimates that 78 million migrant workers have already returned to work…

Despite continued restrictions in many parts of the country, reports suggest that the express delivery industry, which employs large numbers of migrant workers, has nearly returned to normal with around 90 percent of post office and private courier company staff returning to work by the end of February. If covid-19 control measures continue to work, it is hoped that the express delivery industry will see a complete return to work by mid-March.

For returning workers, however, many questions remain unanswered. How will they be compensated (if at all) for their forced time off, can their employer guarantee a safe working environment and what happens if there is another covid-19 outbreak at their workplace?