MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Chinese workers battle against energy utility

Published by MAC on 2019-10-10
Source: China Labour Bulletin

Hong Kong-based research watchdog, China Labour Bulletin, reports the desperate measures to which employees of Hanergy have been driven, due to its financial collapse and allegedly corrupt behaviour of its founder.

Hanergy professes to be the world's largest supplier of solar power.

White collar staff at Hanergy join the ranks of workers protesting wage
arrears

China Labour Bulletin

October 2019

Staff at one of China’s best known energy companies, Hanergy (汉能), staged
protests in Beijing last month over months of unpaid wages and social
insurance contributions.

White collar staff at two Hanergy subsidiaries, the Mobile Energy Group
and the Thin Film Power Group, said they had not been paid since July. The
company has also been laying off personnel, they said: “There were more
than one hundred staff in my department when I joined in June, but one
third of them have now left.”

Hanergy founder, Li Hejun, was ranked as the richest person in China in
2015 before shares in the Hong Kong-listed Thin Film Power Group
collapsed. In June this year, Thin Film was officially delisted from the
Hong Kong exchange after being suspended for four years. The company is
now in severe financial difficulty and, in September, it was sued for 71
million yuan for unpaid rent on a luxury private jet.

In early September, workers in Hanergy staged a sit-in at the company's
headquarters over several days. A worker, who fainted during the protest
due to her anger, said that neither the local media nor the government
were responding to their demands. “Even as a masters graduate with a
high-quality education from the state, I am helpless in protecting my
rights.”

Some workers resorted to extreme actions when their demands were not met.
On 21 September, for example, a senior employee threatened to jump off the
building if staff were not paid on that day.

Another worker complained that the company had reneged on a deal to pay
his work injury compensation: “Hanergy did not provide work injury
insurance [as required by law], so I did not receive any compensation from
the work injury fund after the accident. After mediation, they agreed to
pay me 120,000 yuan but then the company ignored the agreement and did not
pay as agreed.”

Several workers formed WeChat groups to publicise their demands but
complained that the local government, the official trade union, and the
media largely ignored them. Indeed, Hanergy actually won plaudits for its
solar panels during the 1 October celebrations to mark the 70th
anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

In reality however, Hanergy is just another example of how companies shift
the burden on to their employees as soon as they encounter economic
difficulties or financial hardship. It does not matter if they are
white-collar staff or low-paid workers in a garment or mobile phone
factory, workers are always the first to be sacrificed.

 

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