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The Reforming Employers, the Suffering Employees and the New Definition of Social Responsibilities

[LABOURS Viewpoint] The Reforming Employers, the Suffering Employees and the New Definition of Socia

If your life, family and children have to be abandoned, then what is the point of the so-called justice you have gained so hard?


We lament the fact that a 42-year-old employee of ZTE chose to end his life by jumping off a building. What actually happened in this man’s life that he should express his emotions in such an extreme way?


To safeguard rights by making his suicide known, that was a way to draw attention. Some exclaimed how terrible the “midlife crisis” was by bringing so much depression ; some doubted whether it’s worthwhile to punishing villains by killing himself; some hinted that things could have been simply solved by money; some were being judging: why can’t employees accept consequences of the industrial downturn while they enjoy the fruits of industrial development?


The era of eating from “the big pot” has long gone. Enterprises no longer have the responsibility to provide employees with “an iron bowl”. Then what exactly are their responsibilities today?


For 23 years LABOURS has witnessed all kinds of approaches employees take countering the crisis of “being laid off” to safeguard their rights. We saw one employee try suicidal approaches to safeguard his rights even 10 years ago, but that story has a happy ending; the very hero now is living in bliss, surrounded by his beloved members.

Today, we want to tell some stories and talk about employees’ anxiety. We are also hoping to evoke thoughts on enterprises’ social responsibilities.


 “Pestering petition” has become a new trend of employees’ right safeguarding.


At the end of 2016, Mr. Huang and his wife left the company they had worked for over 20 years. In 1990s, Mr. Huang, as a outstanding graduate from Shanghai Jiao Tong University, entered this factory where his father was working. He had become a manager in charge of product sales before he left. As a manager, Mr. Huang, after seeing the company suspend production for half a year, had already anticipated its closure, but he was still caught in panic and helpless when he finally saw the official closure document issued by the company.


Mr. Huang said, “We were given a generous compensation plan, which my wife accepted, but I couldn’t. I was brought up here. Our products were quite famous before, even in foreign countries. As the local benchmark enterprise, it was even visited by local authorities. But why suddenly it just collapsed? I must stand up for my colleagues.” The employees knew that the arbitration was meaningless for them, so they chose “pestering petition”. Mr. Huang added that “the company’s action was legal; the arbitration may give us a less favorable compensation plan than offered by the company”.


The year 2017 has passed. Through communication between and guidance by the petition offices and other governmental bodies, most employees of the “pestering petition” group led by Mr. Huang have accepted the original compensation plan offered by the company.


 “Pestering petition” has become the new trend of employees’ right safeguarding.


At the beginning of 2016, an enterprise downsized its number of staff.


Before the official announcement of the adjustment, rumors had been spread among the employees, including a driver for the company, who was over 40. He said “I will kill anyone who dares to lay me off.” Unfortunately, his name was indeed in the layoff list. After the official announcement of the layoff list, this driver went to the general manager at the headquarters with a knife and said he needed an explanation. When talking with the general manager, the employee took out his knife. Fortunately, the general manager successfully soothed his emotions.


Later, the employee explained that he actually never meant any harm. However, we can imagine that, if he was enraged during the confrontation, anything irretrievable might happen.


Grudge led to irrational “revenge”


Earlier last month, a friend of mine came to me for help. She had been laid off by a company where she was a HR. The company, a foreign-invested one, due to the changes in Chinese investment environment, had appointed a new CEO and descended a new HR director in middle 2016, so as to ensure better development.


The new director, with a completely different management style, proved not so agreeable a person for my friend to get along with. She had complained about her in front of me several times, and she planned to just dawdle away the next half of the year until she could get the year-end bonus and quit. Her name was in the layoff list during the adjustment. After the announcement of the list, my friend held bitter grudge to and blamed the new director for everything. When I was talking with her on the phone, I felt that she was no longer the rational girl I knew, but one who was desperate to seek revenge on her company (boss). She sent emails pouring out her bitter comments on the director to the oversea headquarters. Meanwhile she group sent some misleading texts to the employees in a chat group. She even left some unfriendly comments below the recruitment ad of the company.


This was not new to me. During an adjustment, no enterprise is not worried about such occurrences. An employee, who is usually nice, may turn out the other way around in response when he or she is threatened by a layoff list.

 

Postscript:

Many years ago, we were dealing with a case in which an employee of a state-owned company cut her wrist, because she felt she was unfairly treated by her employer. During our talk, we asked her which one was more important for her, her life, family and children or the so-called justice as she saw? If her life, family and children had to be abandoned, what is the point of the so-called justice she used her life to gain? Finally she came around and conceded to the company.

 

Companies always handle “downsizing” with caution. Nothing could not be better than everything going on quietly. Meanwhile, employees are also being careful to remain intact despite storms. However, in an age that is changeful, complicated, vague and unstable, neither enterprises nor employees could be completely intact.


Enterprises must sail against the current with resolute courage. Employees must experience the inevitable “pain”. To survive, employees must adjust their mentality actively and focus on their future development instead of being entangled in the past. When they are cornered into a dead end, a positive psychological counseling would be important and must come in handy. Such is a social responsibility that should be undertaken by enterprises as major employers.


In future we will share more solutions to similar incidents. And we wish all enterprises after adjustment every success, and wish all employees after adjustment a better tomorrow.


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Scaled adjustment of labor relations in China are defined by adjusting ten employees or above at one time, which are often evoked by a series of strategic reforms such as enterprises liquidation, tran...
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