03/29/2007, 00.00
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Chinese workers for McDonald's, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Pizza-Hut are underpaid

A Chinese daily paper affirms that the American Food store Giants pay their part time workers below the statutory minimum wage. Staff are forced to work 10 straight hours without breaks or rights. Following the newspaper report the government carries out an investigation, calling on the companies to collaborate, while many employees announce their intention to sue.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Five/six Yuan (65/77 cents) an hour: that’s the pay that American Food giants McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) and Pizza-Hut are giving top art-time employees in China.  And now they intend to sue.  The claims were reported by the New Express Daily in Guangzhou following months of investigation which revealed that the three companies paid part time staff well below the minimum wage and moreover made them work full time hours without recognising any of their rights. 

The report said its reporters, disguised as job applicants, found that McDonald's paid part-time employees 5.3 Yuan per hour in Guangzhou, 5.1 Yuan in Dongguan and "more than five Yuan" in Shenzhen. The report also said that Pizza Hut in Guangzhou offered 5.8 Yuan per hour to part-time workers while KFC paid 5.5 Yuan. According to Guangdong's minimum wage laws, employers must pay part-time staff no less than 7.5 Yuan per hour in big cities such as Guangzhou, 6.6 Yuan in medium-sized cities such as Dongguan and Zhuhai and 5.8 Yuan in small cities. But the minimum wage varies in different areas: For example, Beijing has set a minimum wage about 550 Yuan per month, while the economic hub Shanghai has a minimum wage about 650 Yuan.

The paper interviewed some of the workers.  A university student working part-time in a McDonald's outlet in Guangzhou was quoted as saying she had worked as long as 10 hours a day and that a lunch break was not included. “We had to keep running around all the time and had no opportunity to stop," she complained to the newspaper. "We felt we were seriously exploited”. Wang Huapinq, co-author of the report, says that about 70% of the part time staff are students and asked “how can they be expected to study after working these massacrating hours”.

According to the mainland's labour laws, employees who work more than five hours a day and 30 hours a week should be treated as full-time staff and employers must pay them all relevant benefits. But KFC and Pizza-Hut offered unfair terms in their working agreements to part time workers denying them these rights by law.

According to official data, McDonald’s and KFC have nearly 3,000 outlets all over China and a work force of nearly 200,000. In a declaration released today McDonald’s claims to have always respected these laws and affirms that it is collaborating with authorities “to clarify the situation”. While Yum Brands Inc. (for KFC and Pizza-Hut) maintains that there may have been a misunderstanding as to whether students were included in the laws protecting part time workers. It doesn’t explain however why students should be excluded from access to the minimum wage. 

Now Zhang Fengqi, vice- director of the Governments Department for social welfare in Guangdong has opened an investigation into the claims and has promised heavy penalties for those found breaking the law.  The authorities have also underlined that neither McDonald’s nor KFC permit workers unions within the companies.

Meanwhile Zhu Yongping, a Guangzhou lawyer, claims that there have been “grave violations” of workers rights and announces pending legal action.

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