Hong Kong (Associated Press)-E-commerce workers who fed the Chinese during the coronavirus pandemic made their billionaire bosses richer. They were so dissatisfied with their salary and treatment that some Self-immolation.
China’s Internet industry has already known long requirements. As millions of families are confined to their homes, demand has surged, and employees are transporting large quantities of vegetables, rice, meat, diapers and other items, usually on scooters, exposing them to low temperatures.
For white-collar workers in the technology industry, salary is better than in some industries, but employees are usually required to work 1
After the death of Pinduoduo, an e-commerce platform known for selling fresh produce at low prices, labor costs have attracted public attention. Their death reminded them of overwork. In order to arouse high attention, the official Xinhua News Agency called for shortening working hours, describing long hours of overtime as “illegal” operations, at the expense of employee health.
A video circulated on Chinese social media shows that this is the driver of Ele.me, a subsidiary of the e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, who once again expressed concern about the poor working conditions of the delivery driver and set fire to protest against unpaid By. wage.
This controversy is a blow to the image of the Internet industry that is changing the Chinese economy and creating new jobs. They make some of the founders of the richest entrepreneurs in the world. During the peak of the pandemic, with the rapid growth of online consumer spending, the biggest wealth including Alibaba founder Jack Ma and Pinduoduo founder Huang Kelin surged.
In a video widely circulated on Chinese social media, Liu Jin, a 45-year-old delivery driver, poured gasoline and caught fire outside the Eleme substation in the eastern city of Taizhou, yelling for money. Others put out the flames and rushed him to the hospital where he was receiving treatment. His body suffered third-degree burns.
The details of Liu’s complaint could not be confirmed, and Eleme did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In addition, a 43-year-old delivery driver collapsed at work and died last week while delivering food for Eleme.
The company said in a statement that it will give the driver’s family 600,000 yuan ($92,700) and increase the driver’s insurance coverage to this level. Its statement said that Eleme “has not done enough in accidental death insurance, and needs to do more.”
A Pinduoduo employee surnamed Tan committed suicide after leaving the company for vacation and returned to his hometown. In Urumqi, a 22-year-old employee surnamed Zhang collapsed less than two weeks after returning home from get off work with a colleague. This problem is once again highlighted. come out.Died later
China’s third-largest e-commerce company, Pinduoduo, issued a statement saying that it is providing help and support to the families of the two employees who died. The Shanghai authorities are also reviewing the company’s working hours, contracts and other conditions.
These deaths caused strong protests on social media, and many people suspected that they were the result of overwork. Chinese social media users criticized China’s technology industry, not only criticizing the culture of Pinduoduo, but also pointed out that this is an industry problem. A similar corporate culture exists in most large technology companies in China.
They also reignited a national debate about the so-called “996” work culture in the technology sector, in which employees usually work six days a week, from 9 am to 9 pm. Companies sometimes pay huge bonuses to some employees to induce them to work overtime.
An article on the Weibo website Weibo by the state-owned Xinhua News Agency said: “We must strive to pursue our dreams, but the legitimate rights and interests of workers cannot be ignored or even violated.”
This issue has also raised concerns about the working conditions of delivery drivers, who are under tremendous pressure and need to quickly place orders with customers, sometimes earning less than 10 yuan ($1.55) per delivery. If they fail to complete the service on time, the fines imposed may range from as low as 1 yuan ($0.15) to as high as 500 yuan ($77.30) if the customer files a complaint.
As part of the gig economy, such delivery workers usually cannot get the benefits provided to full-time employees, such as social or medical insurance.
Since many people are willing to work under such conditions, it is difficult for employees to negotiate better salaries and conditions.
In August last year, the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU)-the only legally existing union in China under Communist rule-stated that 6.5 million delivery workers have joined the union since 2018. Wall Street people who track labor relations in China say that there is still little ability to improve workers’ access to better treatment by the company. The union only provides skills training, legal aid and some medical benefits.
Li Qiang, founder of China Labour Watch, another organization that monitors labor rights, said: “Unions need to be more efficient, otherwise labor laws will not be enforced.”
According to China’s labor law, workers cannot work more than eight hours a day, and an average of 44 hours a week. The total number of overtime work per month should not exceed 36 hours, and can only be done “after consultation with the union and labor.
However, despite the existence of labor laws, it is rarely enforced because employees are caught in a culture of overwork when fighting for bonuses or making a living for delivery drivers.
Li said that delivery workers are part of the corporate culture, and even white-collar workers in the technical field have to work long hours.
Employees who do not work overtime cannot survive in technical or white-collar jobs. Everyone is working overtime. If they do not work overtime, they will be fired.
According to Li of China Labor Watch, in certain industries, compensation clauses are sometimes written into workers’ contracts, which puts workers at a greater disadvantage, thereby exempting the company from liability for death at work and other such incidents. Although such clauses may violate China’s labor law, China’s legal system is not transparent and the law may be difficult to enforce.
He said: “In Western countries, if an employee dies due to overtime, the legal and economic costs will be higher, and with the intervention of national laws, they will usually be subject to greater restrictions.” “But in China, There is no bottom line for overtime, and companies generally do not bear responsibility for death.”
Associated Press Shanghai researcher Chen Si contributed to this report.