Dejian (Ken) Zeng
China Labor Watch
After 30-something newly recruited workers were assigned to our line, I brought up the overtime issue again, this time directly with the line manager (LM):
LM: If the boss appoints me a person to take over your work when you’re away, then I would be fine with it.
Me: Weren’t 30 people assigned to our line recently? And because there are no empty spots, you even promoted two workers as off-line assistants. Can’t you just let them do my work when I’m gone?
LM: They were promoted because we’re cultivating them for our new line. You don’t understand the situation. Try to understand and be cooperative.
At that moment, I realized that the argument of “not having enough people” was just an excuse.
I sensed there might be street-level bureaucracy going on here. Thinking that the factory managers might have a different attitude, I went to the employee services center to complain.
Staff in the center (S): Do you have a problem?
Me: Yeah. My group leader forced me to work overtime.
S: (laughing as if this was a ridiculous thought) What do you mean by “forced”? We call it “cooperate” (配合加班) when someone works overtime. You are cooperating in producing work for the factory.
Me: But during the training for new employees, the factory claimed that overtime is voluntary. Right?
S: You are all cooperating to work overtime. This is a factory. If you don’t work overtime, where are you gonna get your money? (smiling once again as if this was a really funny idea)
It is obvious that “voluntary overtime” are empty words and represent an act the factory puts on for its client, Apple. In practice, workers are forced to work overtime. Generally, they are required to stay inside the factory 12 hours a day, 6 days a week. As you can see from my diary, I didn’t succeed even when giving a proper reason. Why should people work overtime when they feel tired or just don’t want to work the extra hours?
However, it should also be noted that sometimes workers complain of not being able to work overtime and earn the double wages. They even organized a strike demanding an increase in overtime. I think this is really pathetic! Why should workers need to heavily depend on their overtime payment to maintain a decent life? Why does an 8 hour a day, 5 day a week work schedule seem to be a ridiculous demand in the eyes of the factory management?
When will workers be able to choose to work or not work according to their own wishes?