Place labour rights at the core of China’s Universal Periodic Review

Paris, Hong-Kong, 18 September 2013. At the occasion of the People’s Republic of China’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR), FIDH and CLB urge the Chinese government to take concrete steps to improve labour rights in the country, including the right to health and safety as well as the right to collective bargaining. China’s UPR will take place on 22 October 2013 in Geneva. UN member states will then have the opportunity to raise questions and recommendations about the human rights situation in the country.

“While China’s legislative framework for labour rights has gradually improved - a sign that Chinese authorities are willing to address growing labour unrest - workers continue to face a wide range of human rights violations. We therefore hope that the UPR process will lead the government to initiate new reforms for positive change”, said Karim Lahidji, FIDH President.

In a short report published today ahead of the UPR session, CLB highlights the right to health and safety as well as the right to collective bargaining.

Pneumoconiosis, a lung disease caused by inhalation of dust, often in mines, accounts for 90% of all occupational disease cases in China. According to a recent estimate by the organization Da Ai Qing Chen, it affects more than 6 million workers. Since the 2000s, the situation has worsened, with villages exclusively inhabited by former migrant workers waiting for their death. A less bureaucratic compensation system, State financial support as well as the creation of a more sustainable compensation system, based on contributions by companies, are recommended.

CLB also stressed the importance of acknowledging the right to collective bargaining to ensure in the long-term respect for labour rights in China. “Due to the absence of a collective bargaining mechanism, workers in China do not have equal position and power to negotiate with their employers. Thus, they can not ensure their rights are fully recognized, protected, and fulfilled”, said CLB founder and director, Han Dongfang.

“The Government of China should ratify ILO Conventions on freedom of association and protection of the right to organize, 1948 (No. 87) and on the Right to organize and collective bargaining., 1949 (No. 98). It should also swiftly ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and withdraw its reservation to Article 8 of the ICESCR, relating to freedom of association”, Mr. Lahidji added.

In order to prepare for the UPR session, the Chinese government has to submit a State report to the UN Human Rights Council. However, it has not made this report public, as it is the norm, and in spite of many calls by human rights activists in China.

For more information on labour rights in China, download FIDH report:“China’s workers are calling for change. What role should brands play?”, May 2013, and go to China Labour Bulletin’s website.

Read more