- Situation of workers in the closed loop
- Hong Kong police arrested Cardinal Joseph Zen
- Table.Live briefing: end of vaccine diplomacy
- Study: immunity too low for relaxations
- More trade with Africa
- Critical WHO chief censored on social media
- Bachelet trip expected later this month
- Profile: Mark Leonard – a think tanker with an eye on China
For the past couple of weeks, several companies in China have been operating in a so-called closed loop. This means that employees eat, sleep and live at their workplace – usually in or near factories. With European labor laws in mind, this seems unthinkable. But even in the People’s Republic, a six-day week with twelve-hour shifts, as Tesla aims for in its closed-loop system, is not actually legal, writes Nico Beckert. But there are exceptions. He took a closer look at the supposed sideline of China’s zero-covid policy and discovered a huge gray area.
The Chinese Covid strategy not only came under criticism from the World Health Organization this week – the positive external effects of China’s vaccine diplomacy on the country’s reputation are also visibly fading. Vaccine shipments from the People’s Republic have almost come to a standstill in 2022, Stefan Schmalz, a political economy expert, and economist Philipp Koencke reported at the Table.Live briefing. One reason for the mood change was that Beijing charged a lot for its shipments, while the vaccines did not have the desired effect.
Explosive news reached the world from Hong Kong on Wednesday evening: Cardinal Joseph Zen has been arrested. The well-known critic of the Chinese government and its religious policies is charged with conspiring with foreign forces. Zen was a thorn in the side of both the Vatican and the Communist Party, as Marcel Grzanna summarizes. The arrest, however, does not mean any improvement in relations between the Holy See and Beijing.
Life inside the factory – the Covid hardship of workers
Many companies resort to a drastic measure to keep production going during the recent Covid lockdowns: Their employees stay overnight, eat, live in the factories or adjacent dormitories. From Bosch, Tesla and Foxconn to German mid-sized companies like Wirtgen and Chinese companies, many businesses isolate their workers in the factories. They are no longer allowed to leave the premises. This is to prevent infections.
Workers at Tesla’s Shanghai plant were provided with a sleeping bag and mattress, according to an internal company memo. There are no dormitories, however. People had to sleep on the factory floor. According to the memo, showers and an “entertainment area” were going to be set up, Bloomberg reports. What sounds like an involuntary summer camp on the factory floor, however, is devoid of recreation: Workers were to work twelve hours a day, six days a week, the company memo stated. Showers and the entertainment area were not finished when employees first learned of the closed-loop system.
In Germany, such conditions would be unthinkable under labor law. And in China, they also violate labor laws. “12 hours a day, six days a week is clearly against the law, because the labor law only allows 36 hours of overtime per month,” says Aidan Chau of China Labor Bulletin (CLB). But he says the Chinese government has exempted Tesla and other companies from the labor law. They are on a “whitelist” of companies that are allowed to continue production during the pandemic. “The government is strongly on the side of the companies. The well-being of workers is neglected,” Chau complains.