Worker unrest spreads to the luxury goods and services sector

Luxury goods and services are now a well-established and highly visible part of urban life in China, giving the appearance at least of a relatively affluent society. However the provision of these goods and services is largely dependent on low-paid workers who are vulnerable to exploitation.

As the Chinese economy slows and anti-corruption campaigns take their toll on luxury goods sales, these workers are finding life harder than ever, and,  just like factory workers, miners and construction workers, luxury goods and service providers are staging strikes and protests over wage arrears and lay-offs.

In the retail and services sectors overall, there has been a noticeable surge in worker protests over the last year. In July, services and retail accounted for 24 percent of all incidents recorded on China Labour Bulletin’s Strike Map, slightly more than in the manufacturing sector and second only to construction. In the same month last year, services and retail accounted for less than seven percent of the total.

Caddies on strike in Shanghai

More than 100 caddies went on strike at Shanghai’s Yintao Golf Club on 16 June, protesting worsening work conditions imposed by new management. Management recently added night-time play at the course and eliminated overtime, forcing caddies to work longer hours for less pay. Management responded by increasing wages and promising a quick resolution to the dispute.

Caddie strikes are not uncommon in China, in fact there was a dispute at another Shanghai golf course two days after the Yintao strike, with caddies and other staff protesting non-payment of wages.

CLB’s Strike Map has recorded seven golf course labour disputes over the last year, most related to wage and social insurance arrears stemming from the forced closure of the club.

Calvin Klein beauticians stage protest

Beauticians and sales staff working at Calvin Klein makeup booths in Chongqing’s high-end shopping malls organized an online protest on 26 July demanding three months of unpaid wages from ADE China, a third party distributor with sales rights for Calvin Klein products in China.

The staff took pictures of themselves at their booths holding placards with their handwritten demands. ADE had issued staff a notice on 20 July stating that Calvin Klein’s makeup line planned to leave the Chinese market and shut down its booths by the end of July. However ADE had failed to pay sales staff their wages in full.

Four days later on 30 July, Bulgari sales staff in Shanghai staged a similar online selfie-protest at their shopping mall stations demanding payment of four months wages in arrears.

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