| SHANGHAI, June 26
SHANGHAI, June 26 Former employees are preparing
to sue Wal-Mart in China after an arbitration committee rejected
their case for better compensation than the company has offered
after closing the store where they worked in central Hunan
Dozens of workers challenged the way that Wal-Mart Stores
Inc closed the underperforming store in the city of
Changde in March and attempted negotiations for better
compensation before turning to arbitration.
Labour activists, scholars and lawyers have closely followed
the case because the store's branch of the state-run All-China
Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) has taken the unusual step of
leading the protest.
Critics say the ACFTU - the only legal union in China - has
long prioritised stability over worker's rights and interests,
and has a history of sitting out disputes or siding with
An arbitration committee heard the case over a two-day
period late last month and issued its decision on Wednesday
turning down the workers' arbitration requests.
Meanwhile, Changde's neighbourhood committees - grassroots
arms of the government - have pressured the workers to accept an
offer from Wal-Mart of 3,000 yuan ($480) each and end the
dispute, workers said.
Huang Xingguo, the store's union boss who has been leading
the challenge, said on Thursday that most had come around to
accepting the deal and only 18 were left preparing to continue
"It doesn't matter, though. The law won't change because the
number of people goes up or down," he said.
Still, he was unhappy after the arbitration result.
"I feel like workers will always be at the bottom rung in
the face of capital, the government and the union, and we will
always have a weak voice," Huang said.
Wal-Mart closed the Changde store as part of plans to
restructure in China. It said in October it planned to shut
15-30 China stores through 2016 while opening up to 110 and
creating nearly 19,000 jobs as part of efforts to revitalise its
Employees say there were not given proper notice or
compensation when the company decided to close the Changde
A Wal-Mart spokesman has said the company was fully
compliant with the law and had the support of the local
Former worker Zhou Zhigang said the remaining workers were
asking for a payoff of two times their monthly salary multiplied
by the number of years they worked at the store.
"We want Wal-Mart to admit that it went about closing the
store in the wrong way," he said.
The workers had 15 days from the date of the arbitration
decision to file suit, a copy of the decision seen by Reuters
($1 = 6.2090 yuan)
(Reporting by John Ruwitch; Editing by Ryan Woo)