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China’s migrant workers protect their rights with toil and trouble – part 1

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In November 2011, Zhang Guangde received an urgent summons to a factory town in southern China where his son, Tingzhen, was working for Foxconn, the Taiwanese contract electronics manufacturer for Apple and one of China's biggest employers.
2011年11月,张广德接到了一个紧急电话,让他立刻赶往中国南方的一座工业城市。他的儿子张廷振在那里为富士康(Foxconn)工作,后者是一家为苹果公司(Apple)代工的台资电子产品制造商,也是中国最大的雇主之一。
     
Tingzhen, a 28-year-old migrant worker from central China, had been on a ladder, fixing a security light, when he suffered an electric shock, fell about four metres and struck his head on the ground. By the time Mr Zhang arrived at his son’s bedside in Shenzhen, a manufacturing centre in Guangdong province, doctors had removed a portion of his dangerously swollen brain. Tingzhen, once a champion track and field athlete, was bedridden for more than two years and has only recently begun to walk again. He will require care for the rest of his life.  
28岁的张廷振是一名来自中国中部的农民工,他站在梯子上修理一盏应急灯时遭到了电击,从4米左右的高处跌落,头部撞到了地面。当张广德来到深圳(广东省的一个制造业中心)儿子的床边时,医生已经对危及生命的肿胀大脑进行了部分切除。曾是一名优秀田径运动员的张廷振两年多来一直卧床不起,直至最近才开始下地走路。他的后半生都需要有人照顾。
     
Tingzhen’s accident set his father on a four-year odyssey through every tier of China’s justice system — the courts, arbitration and, when those two avenues failed, a centuries-old petitioning system through which peasants once appealed to imperial authorities for redress.
张廷振的事故让他的父亲走上了四年的漫长维权之路,他经历了中国司法体系的每一个层级——各级法院和仲裁机构,而当这两条途径都行不通时,他只能求助古老的的上访制度。在古代,中国农民曾通过这种制度向官府申冤。
     
As China’s once seemingly inexhaustible pool of surplus rural labour is depleted — a moment christened the “Lewis turning point” by economists — the migrant workers who have powered the country’s economic miracle over the past 30 years are gaining unprecedented leverage over their employers in everything from pay and benefit negotiations to disability claims.
随着中国一度看似取之不尽的农村富余劳动力供应逐渐枯竭——经济学家们称这一时刻为“刘易斯拐点”(Lewis turning point),过去30年间推动中国经济奇迹的农民工正在很多方面获得对雇主的空前影响力,从薪酬和福利谈判,到伤残索赔。
     
It has led to a surge in industrial unrest and a marked increase in the number of workers taking their cases to court, as the Zhangs did. Others find themselves in legal jeopardy for allegedly “disrupting social order” — a vague charge punishable by up to five years in prison — during the course of their industrial disputes.
这导致了劳资纠纷数量激增,还有越来越多的工人像张广德一样在法庭提起诉讼。但在劳资纠纷的过程中,一些人发现自己陷入涉嫌“扰乱社会秩序”——最多可判处五年监禁的一项模糊指控——的危险法律境地。
     
But after a series of landmark labour cases over the past two years, China’s workers have secured few legal victories. This has engendered widespread scepticism about the court system’s ability to deliver justice to workers embroiled in disputes with influential employers and local officials. “The situation in China is that laws are trumped by power,” says Mr Zhang. “China is too corrupt and local governments constantly deceive their superiors.”
但是,在过去两年里出现一系列标志性的劳动纠纷案件之后,中国工人们几乎没有获得多少法律上的胜利。这引发了人们对法院系统的广泛质疑:这些法院是否有能力为那些与有钱有势的雇主和地方官员产生纠纷的工人伸张正义?“中国的情况是,法律受制于权力,”张广德说,“中国太腐败了,地方政府不断地欺瞒上级。”
     
Industrial strife
劳资冲突

     
Wu Guijun, a Shenzhen-based labour activist, reached a similar conclusion after spending a year in detention on charges that were eventually dropped.深圳劳工维权人士吴贵军在被拘留一年后得出了类似的结论,对他的指控最终被撤销。
     
“China’s judicial system is very bureaucratic and vulnerable to government pressure,” he says. “That makes it hard for workers to safeguard their rights.” Mr Wu was detained during the course of a 2013 dispute during which he allegedly led workers in a protest march that prosecutors said disrupted social order.
“中国的司法体制非常官僚化,很容易受到政府的压力,”他说。“这让工人们很难维护自己的权利。”吴贵军在2013年的一起维权纠纷期间被捕,据称他带领工人们举行了一场抗议游行,检方称此举扰乱了社会秩序。
     
The ruling Communist party has signalled its determination to end local interference in court decisions, thus advancing the cause of justice while also centralising Beijing’s control over the legal system. It dedicated its last annual conclave, held in October, to rule of law issues and says it wants to instil enough public trust in the justice system that petitioners will become plaintiffs, and appeal to local courts rather than flocking to Beijing. It also hopes that an effective court and arbitration system can help defuse larger worker protests such as Mr Wu’s before they reach critical mass and spill on to the streets.  
执政的中共已发出信号表明,它决心结束地方政府对法院判决的干涉,从而推进社会正义,同时强化北京对司法体系的集中控制。去年10月举行的中共十八届四中全会重点讨论了法治议题,称要让民众对司法体系有足够的信任,让上访者成为原告,求助于当地法院,而不是涌向北京。中共也希望,有效的法院和仲裁体制将有助于平息吴贵军所参与的那种大规模工人抗议,以免不满情绪达到临界点并扩散至街头。
     
The party, however, has also made clear that it has no intention of relinquishing its ultimate authority over the courts. This includes the right to decide verdicts in politically sensitive cases, which are supervised by its powerful Politics and Law Committee.  
然而,党已明确表示,它无意放弃对法院的最终权威,包括有权决定政治敏感案件的判决,这些案件受到拥有实权的政法委的监督。
     
The outcomes in a spate of high-profile labour cases over the past year suggest that the committee is attempting to strike a delicate balance. While it does not want to sign off on severe punishments that could provoke a backlash from China’s rapidly evolving labour movement, it also does not want to encourage worker activism. Chinese law does not protect the right to strike and independent unions are banned.  
过去一年一系列令人瞩目的劳动纠纷案的结果似乎表明,政法委正试图把握微妙的平衡。尽管它不希望赞同可能引发中国快速演变的工人运动反弹的严厉惩罚,但它也不想鼓励工人积极维权。中国的法律并不保护罢工权,而且禁止设立独立工会。
     
“Collective disputes such as strikes are tied up with [government concerns about] stability,” says Chang Kai, a legal expert at Beijing’s Renmin University who advises workers involved in industrial actions. “It’s hard to guarantee workers’ rights in these cases.”
“罢工等群体性劳动纠纷与(政府对)稳定(的关切)纠结在一起,”为陷入劳资纠纷的员工担任顾问的中国人民大学法律专家常凯表示,“在此类案件中,很难保障员工的权利。”
     
In March, the party’s Central Committee instructed officials to “make the building of harmonious labour relations an urgent task”, noting that “labour tensions have entered a period of increased prominence and frequency and the incidence of labour disputes remains high”.   
今年3月,中共中央指示各级官员“把构建和谐劳动关系作为一项紧迫任务”,并指出“劳动关系矛盾已进入凸显期和多发期,劳动争议案件居高不下”。
     
The official Chinese Academy of Social Sciences recorded a tenfold rise in the number of collective labour disputes involving between 100 and 1,000 workers. These increased from just 23 in 2007 to 209 in 2012. Over the past year there have been industrial actions involving thousands of workers — and in some instances tens of thousands. The China Labour Bulletin, an independent Hong Kong-based advocacy group, documented 1,171 worker protests between June 2011 and December 2013. The CLB also recorded 150 police interventions in worker protests in 2012-13, with arrests made in 69 instances.   
据官方的中国社科院(Chinese Academy of Social Sciences)统计,100名至1000名员工参加的群体性劳动争议案件数量在2007年只有23起,到2012年已升至209起,增加了10倍。过去一年出现了涉及数千名员工的劳资纠纷,一些纠纷甚至牵涉到数万名员工。据总部位于香港的独立维权组织《中国劳工通讯》(China Labour Bulletin)记录,2011年6月至2013年12月,中国爆发了1171起员工抗议活动。《中国劳工通讯》的数据还显示,在2012年至2013年的工人抗议中,有150次遭到警方干预,其中69次有抗议者被捕。
     
The unrest has created a dilemma for local officials who are wary of alienating investors as China’s economy enters a prolonged period of slower growth. “Local governments don’t want to create a legal environment that’s seen to be unfriendly for business, particularly when things are not booming as much as they used to,” says Geoff Crothall, CLB’s research director.  
这些不安定给地方政府官员带来了一个难题;随着中国经济进入持续的增速放缓期,他们担心吓跑投资者。《中国劳工通讯》研究总监郭展睿(Geoff Crothall)表示:“地方政府不希望创建一个被视为对企业不友好的法律环境,特别是在景气程度不如以往的情况下。”
     
Mr Wu was detained in May 2013 during a march by workers from his furniture-factory employer. The workers objected to the severance terms offered by their boss, who wanted to move the manufacturing operation to a cheaper location in China’s interior.  
2013年5月,在家具制品厂迪威信的工人们游行期间,吴贵军被拘留。当时工人们抗议工厂老板提出的遣散赔偿标准,厂方希望将生产业务迁至成本更低的中国内陆地区。
     
Now 42, Mr Wu migrated to Guangdong from central Hunan province 13 years ago and had worked at the factory for nine years. He denied leading the march and the charges against him were eventually dropped for lack of evidence.  
现年42岁的吴贵军13年前离开中国中部湖南省的家乡,到广东打工,在迪威信工厂工作了9年。他否认自己是游行的领头人,针对他的刑事指控最终因证据不足而被撤销。

2016-06-24

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