Fast-food firms accused of making a fast buck

By Zhu Zhe (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-04-11 07:03

Question: How much does a part-time worker at McDonald's earn in one hour?

Answer: Four yuan (52 cents), or slightly less than the price of two ice-cream cones.

Such is the claim of a report published last month, which alleged the burger chain, along with fellow US fast-food giants KFC and Pizza Hut, pays its part-time workers in Guangdong far less than the legal minimum wage of about $1 an hour.

The report said that McDonald's pays its part-timers, many of whom are college students, just 4 yuan per hour, a shade less than KFC, which pays 4.7 yuan (61 cents) and Pizza Hut, 5 yuan (65 cents).

Media in a further 10 cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Taiyuan and Fuzhou, later reported similar findings.

The reports have caused uproar across the country.

Labor authorities in Guangdong and elsewhere have begun investigating the claims, while the All-China Federation of Trade Unions has urged the fast-food companies to redress any violations of regulations.

According to a China Daily online survey, 44 percent of the 785 respondents said they would boycott the companies named in the scandal.

In response, McDonald's and Yum Brands Inc, which operates KFC and Pizza Hut, said they had complied with the law, but were seeking clarification of recent changes to the regulations.

In addition, labor officials in Shanghai said they had found no violations of the minimum wage regulations in McDonald's or KFC outlets, as the rules there do not apply to part-time or student workers.

"The fast-food giants are making use of the legal loopholes, as our labor law doesn't have clear stipulations on the rights and benefits of part-time or student employees.

"The case also shows that our labor authorities do not properly supervise foreign- funded companies."

Liang Zhi, a director of the labor law committee of All China Lawyers' Association

"I'll apply for arbitration at the labor and social security bureau, demanding KFC pays my wages retroactively."

Tang Xiaojing, a woman who was dismissed from KFC in Guangzhou after working there for eight years

"Cheating part-time workers is also a common practice in the US because companies take advantage of the fact that most part-timers are young, inexperienced and lack representation. These businesses should be required to adhere to the rules and regulations of the host country."

Tellit Likitis, a netizen on China Daily's website

"I don't think the companies are to blame, because they are profit-making enterprises. Instead, the trade union and labor departments are at fault, because they are supposed to protect workers' rights and supervise the enterprises."

"myopinion", a netizen on China Daily's website

"It's time not only to focus on the trusts (international giants), but to be aware of the unequal situation for laborers in China, and to wonder why the legislation here is always so vulnerable."

"bfsucom", a netizen on China Daily's website

(China Daily 04/11/2007 page5)

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