Includes company responses, the latest jobs and events announcements.
• Declared a global emergency, the novel coronavirus impacts workers’ rights around the world as employers seek to protect business and supply chains.
• Migrant workers from Malaysia reportedly return home without owed wages as employers try to force them to stay.
• Employees of American Airlines concerned about unknown health threats file a USA lawsuit to halt flights to China; airline has stated it is “taking precautions”.
• Technology firms allegedly maintain manufacturing operations despite government calls for companies to halt work to stop coronavirus spread.
Collected news links from external sources related to topics concerning the Book Chain Project.
Inconsistent business action in response to Covid-19 (novel coronavirus), first reported from Wuhan, China
Includes company responses, the latest jobs and events announcements.
China is stepping up restrictions on the production, sale and use of single-use plastic products, according to the state planner, as it seeks to tackle one of the country’s biggest environmental problems. Plastic bags to be banned in all major cities by end of 2020, and banned in all cities and towns in 2022, says state planner.
China: Investigation finds labour abuse & sexual harassment at toy factories producing for international brands; Includes company responses
In November 2019, labour rights NGO China Labour Watch (CLW) released a report raising allegations of labour abuses faced by workers at five factories producing for international toy brands in Guangdong Province, China. Abuses documented by CLW include low wages, excessive overtime, inadequate health and safety protections, poor living conditions in worker dormitories, restrictions to freedom of association, discrimination, sexual harassment and gender-based violence. Brand companies (including Disney, Lego, BuzzBee etc.) are taking actions.
- Labour & Environment
- Business and Human Rights
- China Labour Watch
- excessive overtime
- gender-based violence
- Guangdong Province
- inadequate health and safety protections
- Labour abuse
- labour abuse & sexual harassment
- labour rights NGO
- Low wages
- Poor living conditions
- restrictions to freedom of association
- sexual harassment
Premier Li Keqiang has signed a State Council decree to publish a regulation on guaranteeing payments of wages to rural migrant workers. The regulation requires market entities should take the lead under the supervision of government and society including labour unions, social medias etc. It states employers must pay employment wage in full and on time through bank transfers or cash. It also clarifies the responsibilities of employers for paying off arrears to migrant workers and corresponding legal account abilities for any breach of the regulation. This regulation will go into effect on 1st of May, 2020.
The trend of setting up a national inventory of chemicals – already seen in China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan – is moving south. The Philippines and Vietnam have existing inventories, while Laos, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia also have plans for one.
Despite regulatory hurdles that might have caused due to disparate regulations and approaches across the region, the overall trend – if slower than other regions – is a shift in focus from primarily GHS-based requirements towards more comprehensive, risk-based chemicals management regimes that mandate registration before use.
The US Customs Border Authority has banned the import of products from certain companies accused of modern slavery violations. The law came into effect in 2016 but this action shows that it can have teeth.
One of the five products/companies was a garment factory in Xinjiang, China, and another one a Malaysian rubber glove factory. The latter was accused of withholding wages, excessive recruitment fees and withholding of passports in a Guardian report back in December 2018 here.
Amazon is investigating the working practices of one of its key suppliers in China - Hengyang Foxconn factory after they were found to have illegally recruited hundreds of student interns aged 16-18, many of whom were also working overtime. These students worked long hours to meet production targets. Those working overtime were only paid the normal hourly rate instead of time-and-a-half which is required by Chinese law and by Amazon’s own supplier code of conduct.
China’s Ministry of Emergency Management (MEM) has completed its consultation on two mandatory guidelines for local authorities that explain how to investigate safety risks at chemical industry parks and hazardous chemical facilities. The guidelines for facilities not only include best practice, it also contains safety checklists. The guidelines for chemical industry parks set out the criteria for authorities to grade them. The next round of activities will focus on reviewing facilities with certain safety issues.
China has taken further steps to reduce the burden of social insurance on employers by implementing new policies and rules. On production safety, the government issued a policy titled ‘Measures on Coordination Between Administrative Enforcement and Criminal Proceedings in Production Safety Crimes’, which will mean tighter enforcement in this area. Some new updates on workplace sexual harassment and personal data protection have also been put forward by government. Employers are asked to review these newly issued policies and any forthcoming national and local policies to ensure their practices are in line with the regulations.
Around 150 Yong’an residents are suing the local government and its partner forest management company, Guangxi Lee & Man Forestry Technology Ltd, for violating a clause in contract law where a business must not damage public interests. Villagers claim the eucalyptus, a thirsty plantation species, is draining the local water supply from three mountain springs, leaving very little for farming and domestic use in the village. This is the first case of this kind in China.
In late April, 29 instances of labour unrest occurred in China, but none of these incidents were reported in the state-run press. This contrasts sharply with the widespread coverage of the tech industry’s pervasive “996” work culture, where employees are expected to work 9am to 9pm, six days per week.
An explosion at a pesticide plant in eastern China's Jiangsu province killed 78 people and injured more than 600. The government has since launched a nationwide inspection into hazardous chemicals, mines, transportation and fire safety. The area's environmental protection bureau has implemented an emergency plan to remove and treat toxic wastewater from a nearby river, with concentrations of harmful chemicals like benzene well past safe limits. The Chinese government vowed to tighten environmental impact assessment approvals for chemical plants and enhance daily inspections. It has also said it will revise the Production Safety Law this year in response to the explosion.
Jiangsu’s provincial government also have plans to close thousands of chemical production sites and chemical parks over the next three years.
- Labour & Environment
- chemical plants
- Chinese goverment
- daily inspections
- Deadly chemical blast
- emergency plan
- environmental impact assessment approvals
- environmental protection bureau
- fire safety
- hazardous chemicals
- Jiangsu province
- pesticide plant
- Production Safety Law
- toxic wastewater
A set of predictions on key global chemical regulatory policy, including Asia & Australia, EU and Brexit, and Mexico, Central and South America and the Middle East. China introduced new or updated regulations in 2018, including the List of Priority Control Chemicals (First Batch), the List of Toxic Chemicals Strictly Restricted (2018), and National Guidance on Hazard Classification to the Aquatic Environment. Taiwan passed the amended Toxic Chemical Substance Control Act (TCSCA) on December 21, 2018. In South Korea, the amended Act on the Registration and Evaluation of Chemicals (K-REACH) came into force on 1 January 2019.
- Chemicals & Materials
- The National Law Review
- South East Asia & Indian Continent
- Korea (Democratic People's Republic)
- Act on the Registration and Evaluation of Chemicals
- National Guidance on Hazard Classification to the Aquatic Environment
- Priority Control Chemicals
- Toxic Chemical Substance Control Act
- Toxic Chemicals Strictly Restricted
In a bid to clean up China’s second largest freshwater lake, local authorities in Hunan Province will close all pulp and paper mills around Dongting Lake by the end of 2019. The c18,000 people employed in the Province's pulp and paper industry will be supported by the local authorityin to new employment. This move is part of wider water pollution controls active since 2006 in Hunan Province. They have led to closures of over 200 waste paper pulping factories and 30 pulp and paper making facilities. The efforts to restore the lake over the past 40 years have helped it extend its area by 30%, providing better flood resilience in the region.
The World Economic Forum recently published research suggesting consumers in a few key emerging market producer countries (Indonesia and Brazil) and importing countries (China and India) together account for 40% of global consumption of the four commodities most associated with tropical deforestation—soy, beef, palm, and wood products. The authors project that by 2025 demand for these commodities within these four countries could increase by 43%, resulting in forest areas equivalent to the size of Nigeria being cut down every. Increasing demand for meat and calorie-rich foods, regulatory changes, and shifts in constraints for domestic production will all be key factors in fueling demand in these emerging market economies.
The Forest Trust have released a short video on their Respect programme which aims to address human rights issues in agricultural supply chains. It discusses some of the issues on plantations in Indonesia and in the manufacturing sector in China, and the worker-focused solutions they are implementing to tackle them.
The article introduces the shortage of skilful (mid to high level) workers in printing industry due to the decreasing graduates in this major from universities and vocational schools in China. Universities and vocational school has less students applying for the printing major, some universities have even cut out the printing major, while the others try to change the name of the major from ‘printing’ to ‘digital media’, ‘image propagation’ and ‘propagation engineering’ but still losing attraction to young people.
The main reason is the overall attraction of the labour-intensive manufacturing industry is decreasing in China due to the rise of internet and service industries, which means more opportunities for young people. The stereotype of printing industry is another reason. Although printing industry is moving forward into digital era, in many people’s mind, printing industry is still a ‘uncool’ traditional industry lagging behind, plus the recent increasing news on its environmental impact since the new environmental protection law, the industry’s image needs to be improved. The last reason is the most practical one – average salary level of printing industry is not competitive compared to other industries. The article gives some statistics: in 2016, the average employee salary of 8,936 publication printing companies is RMB 3,742/month, which is lower than the national average level in all industries (RMB 4,783). Even for the senior management, the salary is not competitive compared with the internet and finance industries.
The publishing initiative run by Carnstone, The Book Chain Project, held its second Asia Summit on 24th of April in Shenzhen, China. It was an opportunity for all the stakeholders in the paper and pulp industry to get together to discuss the latest developments in responsible fibre sourcing. Among the 70 delegates there were paper mills, printers, publishers, retailers, timber experts, and NGOs. The aim of the Summit was to discuss the latest developments on responsible forest sourcing and to share best practice. Further reading and speakers’ slides: https://bookchainproject.com/news
Invisible coercion through withheld wages, lack of employment contracts, and discrimination of migrant workers is widespread in China's construction sector. Wage arrears protests have been booming in the months leading up to the New Year on 16 February. Far from every protest gets violent, but when they do, losses are bigger than just the annual pay.
Forced labour among ordinary workers on China’s ordinary labour market receives vanishing little attention from the inter¬national community.
European Commission releases its 2017 report on the Rapid Alert System for dangerous products. In 2017, 'toys' was notified as product with the most risk (29%), followed by 'motor vehicles' (20%), and 'clothing, textiles and fashion items' (12%).
The majority of dangerous products notified in the system came from outside the EU. China is the number one country of origin, but the number of alerts remains stable at 53% (1,155) in 2017, same as the year before. The Commission continues to cooperate closely with Chinese authorities, working together to discuss specific cases and implement actions, such as exchange of good practices. Dangerous products of European origin accounted for 413 notifications (26%).