China's top legislature is considering the public's suggestions
to give more legal leverage to alternatives to written contracts as
it draws up the nation's first labor contract law.
The National People's Congress (NPC)
had received 32,791 public suggestions in the last ten days to
Thursday on the draft law, which was published for public
consultation on March 20.
The number of submissions since March 28 was six times that of
the first week of publication, said Kan Ke, spokesman for the
General Office of the Standing Committee of the NPC.
Many submissions suggested alternatives to written contracts,
Kan said. The ninth article of the draft states only written
contracts are effective.
A source close to the legislature said China's lawmakers were
seeking written contracts to protect the rights of migrant
"It's now an information era, and labor contracts in verbal or
electronic forms should be valid. An employment relationship is
established as long as the fact of employment exists," Kan quoted
from a submission.
He said some submissions suggesting labor contracts for
part-time employment or short-term employment should be effective
in verbal forms, and revised contracts with few changes should also
be valid with a verbal agreement.
Submissions also criticized the provision that employment
without written contracts should be viewed as non-fixed-term, and
that the draft law also makes it easier for employers to end such
contracts at will.
Some people feared bosses would decline to sign written
contracts with their employees, instead opting for non-fixed-term
employment so they could sack staff more easily, Kan added.
Many people suggested the law should ban overtime, he said.
"Some employees are forced to work over ten hours a day or seven
days a week, but with little overtime pay; while some employers
squeeze overtime into their employees' daily assignments, cutting
wages for people who cannot finish their work," Kan quoted a
submission as saying.
China's current labor contract system was set in a labor law
enacted 12 years ago. The draft, if passed into law, will be the
country's first law governing contracts. It was submitted to the
legislature for review last December, and the public can file
submissions until April 20.
(Xinhua News Agency April 8, 2006)