Walmart Employees Campaigning against Flexible Scheduling
On 16 May, Walmart announced a new flexible scheduling system—the so-called ‘comprehensive working hour calculation system’—to be implemented across its retail stores in China, and asked its employees to sign a written declaration in which they agree to the new system. In contrast to the current standard eight-hour working day for fulltime workers, with the new system Walmart will be able to schedule any number of hours, as long as they add up to 174 hours per month. Not only would the new system reduce workers’ overtime payments, but it would also introduce an erratic work schedule. The Jinan Daily quoted a Walmart worker as saying: ‘We are comfortable with the eight-hour working day. After switching to the new scheduling system, if management requests us to work twelve hours today and four hours tomorrow and if we sign the agreement, then we cannot refuse. This system will bring extreme uncertainty.’ Walmart has previously attempted to implement this scheduling system but failed due to the resistance of its employees. The current opposition against the new scheduling has been led by an unofficial Walmart Chinese Workers Association (WCWA) founded by several current and former Walmart workers in 2014. With the hope of securing the support of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU), on 28 May the WCWA sent an open letter to the ACFTU co-signed by more than eight hundred Walmart workers. On 14 June, the Guangdong branch of the ACFTU issued a statement in which, without naming Walmart, it reiterated that the use of the comprehensive work hour calculation system in the retail sector is inconsistent with the existing regulations, and any labour dispute caused by the implementation of such a system must be reported to the union for timely intervention. For further details, see Anita Chan’s chapter on pp. 50–55 in the present book.