Gucci under fire for alleged employee abuse in China

Updated: 2011-10-12 11:20


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BEIJING -- Gucci, an iconic international luxury brand, recently came under fire after five former employees from its flagship store in southern China's boomtown of Shenzhen lodged complaints about what they allege were inhumane working conditions in the company.

Although one month has passed since an open letter surfaced addressing Gucci China's poor treatment of its employees in the Shenzhen store, the heat from the allegations of the company mistreating employees has not waned.

Five former employees revealed online that there were over 100 restrictions on their behavior, including having to obtain permission before getting a drink of water or using the restroom.

The report also said the employees were responsible for any product that went missing, and that the costs of missing products were deducted from the salaries of the store's shop assistants.

One of the employees surnamed He estimated that a total of over 70,000 yuan ($11,000) was deducted from employees' salaries when 16 items in the store went missing from 2009 to the end of August.

The company, though, had the products insured, which makes them doubly compensated, according to an anonymous insider.

He told reporters the shop assistants were scheduled to work for over 10 hours a day, and could not punch out until the store closed at 10 pm.

They often had to stay later, though, checking inventory until 2 or 3 am, one of the former employees said, adding that the company did not record the overtime.

They are seeking compensation from Gucci China for health damages caused by long working hours as well as payment for their unpaid overtime.

A public relations agency for Gucci responded to the claims by saying the company has always been attentive to the welfare of its employees, and will further investigate the case and take appropriate action as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, the employees said they have not received any apology or compensation from the company.

A person with Gucci's public relations department declined to comment on Tuesday.

Ma Duo, the Human Resources Bureau chief with the Legal Department of Shenzhen's Luohu District, said the department will further investigate the case, despite difficulties in defining "overtime work" as the clauses concerning working hours in the company's labor contract are ambiguous.

Ma added that there are no legal grounds to support the claims that the employees were illegally or unfairly held financially responsible for missing products.

Yang Qianwu, a lawyer with Shenzhen-based Dacheng Law Firm, has urged labor supervisory agencies to take steps to protect employees' legal rights and interests.

"Labor supervisory departments should step up efforts in protecting unarmed employees against the firm," Yang said.

Wang Hongli, deputy director of the Shenzhen-based Labor Union's Rights and Interests Protection Department, said the controversy shows the latest tensions emerging between workers and employers.

Wang encouraged the workers to report the poor treatment to the Shenzhen Labor Union which can offer legal support.