At a meeting to discuss the complaint, the vice-chair of the union, who was also a member of the union’s women’s committee, proposed that Ms A be let go, ostensibly because of her alleged absenteeism. Municipal federation officials and labour law experts in Guangzhou both confirmed however that enterprise union officials have no right to recommend an employee be dismissed. Officials can only agree or disagree with a management request for dismissal.
After being sacked, Ms A filed a lawsuit against her former boss in the Guangzhou courts, which became the city’s first successful sexual harassment lawsuit. The court ordered the defendant to make a formal apology and pay Ms A 3,000 yuan in compensation for the metal anguish caused by the incident, which occurred at year-end company banquet in December 2008.
During the banquet, Ms A’s boss, who had physically harassed her several times in the past, grabbed her from behind, seizing her throat and touching her breasts.
The case has raised awareness of both workplace sexual harassment and the abysmal record of enterprise trade unions in protecting workers’ rights. An online poll on Ms A’s case showed that the vast majority of respondents blamed the enterprise union for siding with management and victimizing workers.
Voters were asked which statement they agreed with: Do you support women protecting their own legitimate rights and interests (103 votes); this shameless union official can’t tell black from white and helps a tyrant do his work (892 votes); this kind of thing is very common, I have personally experienced harassment many times but have had to grind my teeth, and suffer in silence (27 votes).