Not just McDonald's

(China Daily)
Updated: 2007-04-09 15:15

The scandal involving US fast-food giants McDonald's and KFC for alleged underpaying part-time employees should serve as a reminder of the need to strengthen enforcement of China's labor regulations.

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The labor bureau in South China's Guangdong Province has reportedly begun its probe into the case, in which McDonald's and Yum Brands Inc, which operates KFC and Pizza Hut, are accused of paying part-timers less than the Guangzhou minimum wage of 7.5 yuan ($0.97) per hour.

The cases make clear the necessity of increasing protection under our existing labor laws.

For a long time, labor controversies concerning underpaid workers have cropped up in both foreign and domestic enterprises. They include world-renowned firms as well as obscure local companies. The number of victims is believed to be large.

According to a survey by the Guangdong labor bureau and a local university last year, the issue of underpaid farmers-turned-city-workers has become a serious problem.

The 600 enterprises surveyed included foreign, Macao- and Hong Kong-financed and domestic enterprises.

In Beijing, a survey of housekeepers last year by non-governmental organizations found about half of those surveyed were paid less than the local minimum wage.

In Shanghai, local regulators uncovered 907 cases involving 28,000 underpaid workers in the January-August period of 2006.

These cases occurred in big cities, where implementation of labor laws is much stricter than elsewhere. It would be no surprise if labor laws were even more commonly disregarded outside major cities.

McDonald's and KFC were singled out, admittedly, not only because they allegedly violated labor laws but because they are major fast-food brands. They are high-profile targets for those interested in protecting labor rights.

The equally important question is, how many other companies are violating labor laws?

This is the larger issue raised as labor officials investigate the McDonald's and KFC scandals.

(China Daily 04/09/2007 page4)

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