The Dongguan Number 3 District People's Court has upheld an employer's termination of 17 striking employees for misconduct.

Employees in a certain department within the company objected to their new managers and sent an email to company headquarters demanding a change in management. The department employees went on strike after the company rejected their proposal. The company then actively negotiated with the striking employees and invited the Labour Dispute Mediation Office to mediate. Although most of the employees returned to work, several still resisted and the company thus terminated 17 strike leaders, who then jointly filed claims against the company for, among other things, the following compensation:

  • double severance for wrongful termination;
  • overtime compensation; and
  • annual leave compensation.

The court ruled that, based on both parties' statements, the employees' work stoppage:

  • had no reasonable justification;
  • significantly affected the company's operations; and
  • seriously violated the company's labour discipline.

Therefore, the court dismissed the 17 employees' claims for wrongful termination.

Chinese law does not explicitly provide employees with a right to strike, but is silent on whether strikes are considered illegal. This case indicates that in some strike situations, the courts may uphold an employer's disciplinary actions against striking employees on the ground of serious violation of company rules, in accordance with the company's duly adopted policies. As this case demonstrates, employers should note that in practice, the courts will generally look at other factors, such as the reasonableness of the employees' demands and whether the company is acting in good faith with respect to its employees.

For further information on this topic please contact Andreas Lauffs or Jonathan Isaacs at Baker & McKenzie's Hong Kong office by telephone (+852 2846 1888), fax (+852 2845 0476) or email (andreas.lauffs@bakermckenzie.com or jonathan.isaacs@bakermckenzie.com).

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