Located in the southeastern coastal area, Zhejiang province boasts some of the most vibrant economic activities in China. But with the rapid development of the private economy, a range of contradictions in labour relations have emerged. Some regions and industries now face issues like short-term contracts, inferior labour conditions, wage arrears and low social insurance participation rates for rural migrant workers. This requires governments and trade unions at all levels to make use of the advantages they have to effectively regulate tensions between labour and management, protect employees’ legitimate rights and interests and play an active role in establishing harmonious labour relations.
Recently, the province published its 2013 Labour Relations Harmony Index for the different localities. Hangzhou, Ningbo and Jiaxing city were ranked in the top three, with the composite index average reaching 82.15. This is the fourth year running that Zhejiang has produced such an index, and the evaluation results show that the majority of the government targets for 2013 were surpassed. Most enterprises have shown genuine respect for the labour laws and regulations, while workers are quite satisfied across the board. Labour relations have maintained overall harmony and stability.
Take Hangzhou as an example. In 2013, government departments achieved remarkable results in safeguarding labour relations, with most targets more than fulfilled. Labour inspection and arbitration cases dropped markedly compared with 2012, as did the numbers of people involved. No enterprises were reported to have defaulted on wages or illegally asked their workers to hand over valuables as collateral (i.e. to ensure their “loyalty”). The collective bargaining mechanism registered sound results. There was considerable growth in the wages of employees, who in general have contributed to establishing harmonious labour relations. Large-scale incidents related to labour relations seldom occur. Workers are satisfied with their labour conditions, cultural life and living environment. But rational growth in employee wages, rest and holidays and occupational safety supervision are still the key to further improving the Labour Relations Harmony Index across all regions.
This system was initiated in Zhejiang. It covers dynamics tracking and monitoring of employee recruitment, social insurance, wage payment, occupational safety, welfare and so on, using a total of 31 first-grade and 77 second-grade indicators. The results of government departments’ survey evaluation work, the enterprise labour relations situation and worker satisfaction have all been incorporated into the indicators. The full assessment score is 100, with the scoring combining official statistics and third party investigations. The resulting Labour Relations Harmony Index is weighted 6:4 in terms of the composite indicators, i.e., social security service delivery by the provincial government in different cities represents 60%, while the third party sampling surveys on enterprise compliance with laws and regulations as well as worker satisfaction each account for 20%. The index calculated on the basis of this assessment provides a comprehensive picture of the level of labour relations harmony in the region.
The establishment of this evaluation system could improve awareness about the implementation of the various social insurance schemes as well as worker satisfaction with enterprises, society and government. As a new channel for workers to voice their demands, it plays an active role in alleviating both labour-management tensions and worker shortages. Moreover, the accountability letter the Zhejiang provincial government has signed with all municipal governments now includes promoting harmonious and stable labour relations as part of the staff evaluation process, which means the index will have an influence on the annual assessment and promotion of relevant officials.