Automobile equipment company Shenzhen Qiao Feng Technology halts relocation after strike with suspected retaliatory dismissals

A strike broke out at Qiao Feng Technology Industrial Co., Ltd. in Shenzhen, Guangdong on 17 March, 2024. Workers gathered in front of the factory gates to protest relocation, demanding legal compensation and unpaid social insurance payments. Videos and pictures on Douyin showed workers blocking a large truck. Workers sat in front of the factory and the protest extended into the next day. On the afternoon of 18 March, some workers posted on Douyin reporting that due to the government’s intervention, the factory temporarily halted the relocation. The factory management stated that they would move the machinery and equipment back, allowing workers to return to their normal work.

 

A strike broke out at Qiao Feng Technology Industrial Co., Ltd. (Qiao Feng) in Shenzhen, Guangdong on 17 March, 2024. Workers gathered in front of the factory gates to protest relocation, demanding legal compensation and unpaid social insurance payments. Videos and pictures on Douyin showed workers blocking a large truck. Workers sat in front of the factory and the protest extended into the next day. On the afternoon of 18 March, some workers posted on Douyin reporting that due to the government’s intervention, the factory temporarily halted the relocation. The factory management said that they would move the machinery and equipment back, allowing workers to return to their normal work.

Workers sat in front of the factory. Source: Douyin

Workers sat in front of the factory. Source: Douyin

Subsequently, China Labour Bulletin (CLB) contacted the factory’s enterprise union, local federation of trade unions and local government departments. Qiao Feng Technology had decided in 2021 to build a new factory in Heyuan, Guangdong. For the past three years, the enterprise union had not ever inquired about the situation from factory management nor communicated with workers. It was also denying the relocation using factory announcements as evidence when the strike occurred. During the conversation with the enterprise union chairperson, CLB learned that two workers were accused of “deliberately spreading rumours” and the company claimed that they had intended to take them to court. They were dismissed, and the enterprise union signed off on the dismissal decision.

Qiao Feng transferred equipment to new factories for months as workers went on strike 

Qiao Feng Technology Industrial Company is a Hong Kong owned plastic and mold manufacturer. The business registration database shows that the factory has 1,154 employees and mainly produces audio and video systems for automobiles. The company’s website claims that its customers include multinational automotive companies such as BMW, Volvo, Tesla, Volkswagen, and Mazda.

Since 2021, Qiao Feng Technology has been building a new factory in Heyuan City, 175 kilometres away from Shenzhen. The official WeChat account of Heyuan National High-tech Zone mentioned in August 2023 that one of the buildings was completed and put into use in 2023. It also noted that “it has begun to take on some orders and production capacity from the Shenzhen company.” On 27 March 2024, the official website of Heyuan High-tech Zone published another article stating that “the second phase of Qiao Feng Technology’s project will also be gradually completed.” An interview in China Weekly in the same month mentioned that the company had transferred equipment from Shenzhen to the Heyuan factory in 2023, and most of the production transfer is expected to be completed in 2024.

Qiao Feng's new factory in Heyuan, Guangdong.

Qiao Feng’s new factory in Heyuan, Guangdong. Source: Wechat Public Account

When Qiao Feng workers witnessed the continuous relocation of machinery in March 2024, they were concerned about their job prospects, leading them to gather and demand an explanation from the company, specifically whether they would be laid off and compensated. Workers also reported the company’s illegal practice of delaying social insurance payments. According to a video released on 17 March, a petition demanded the company and government to acknowledge the relocation and pay social insurance, with at least 120 workers’ signatures at the bottom.

Workers displayed the petition letter demanding that company and government need to acknowledge the relocation and pay social insurance, with at least 120 workers’ signatures at the bottom. Source: Douyin

According to Chinese labour laws, companies relocating must provide a resettlement plan for workers or terminate their labour contracts and provide economic compensation. Additionally, Article 17 of the Company Law stipulates that companies must listen to the union’s opinions when deciding on major issues such as restructuring, dissolution, bankruptcy applications, and significant business matters. Failing to pay social insurance violates Article 73 of the Chinese Labor Law and also Chapter 2, Section 8 of the German Supply Chain Act, which prevents companies from withholding wages.

Although workers’ demands are well-founded, the company consistently denied relocation, stating that only some machines were being moved to Heyuan, thus no compensation would be provided.

The enterprise union was detached from workers despite receiving training to reform

From CLB’s contact with Qiao Feng enterprise union, the chairperson, Wu, said that before the strike, workers had not sought help from the union. She emphasized that the company was not relocating but merely moving some equipment to the factory in Heyuan City, and thus she believed the workers’ demands for compensation were unreasonable.

The Qiao Feng enterprise union was founded in 2015 and participated in the Shenzhen Federation of Trade Unions’ “Strengthening Plan” in 2017. The plan aims to empower unions’ capacity by enhancing unions’ operational mechanisms and promoting collective bargaining. In June 2018, the Shenzhen Federation of Trade Unions conducted a follow-up visit to Qiao Feng’s enterprise union. A report indicated that Qiao Feng union said it had mastered communication methods and improved the union’s organizational capacity. 

Wu the chairperson said the union holds employee representative meetings almost every quarter, showing that the follow-up procedures of the “Strengthening Plan” are still in operation. However, she admitted that the union was surprised by the strike, and the factory management had not anticipated that workers might strike. This situation reflects a lack of communication processes within the company, and the union has been disconnected from employees for a long time.

CLB: Did the enterprise union sense the workers’ uncertainty and then intervene in advance?
Wu: No, we have not received any such information. It was very sudden. Even the department heads were very surprised. Everything happened very suddenly. In the morning, there was no indication of any issue, and then by 1 pm, this situation emerged, and everyone was stunned.

 

Despite Qiao Feng transferring some equipment from Shenzhen to the Heyuan factory and planning to complete most of the transfer by 2024, the enterprise union did not negotiate a relocation plan with the management on behalf of the workers. Wu quoted a colleague from the local Labour Bureau, mentioning that one of the striking workers had experienced a similar situation in Dongguan, he went on strike and successfully received 60,000 to 70,000 yuan in compensation. She concluded that many workers were unaware of the need for compensation, and some were not even formal contract workers but were incited to strike. “Many colleagues suspected that someone was behind this, feeling like an invisible hand was pushing the situation to develop this way.”

Workers were dismissed while the union agreed with the company

After the strike, at least two workers were dismissed by Qiao Feng’s management due to their protest against the relocation and demands for back social insurance payments. CLB sought clarifications from Wu on whether they resigned voluntarily or were indeed dismissed. Wu admitted that the workers were dismissed by the company and that the union agreed with the company’s decision.

CLB: During this process, you said these two people had already been dismissed. When they were dismissed, did the company follow the procedure, and did it go through the enterprise union’s agreement?
Wu: Yes.
CLB: So, did the enterprise union agree to it?
Wu: Yes.

Wu also specifically mentioned that the company believed these individuals were spreading rumours and planned to sue the so-called leading workers. “The company now insists on suing them.” Wu also provided the names of the two workers.

Qiao Feng Technology’s dismissal of workers after a strike potentially violates Chapter 2, Section 6 of the German Supply Chain Act which protects the right to strike and collective bargaining. Brands that Qiao Feng Technology supplied are subject to the German Supply Chain Act (or other due diligence laws in their home country that governs supply chains) and may face responsibility.

Brands supplied by Qiao Feng needs to conduct due diligence investigations while official unions need revaluation on reform

The enterprise union attempted to talk to the workers after the strike, but Wu recalled that workers refused to communicate. “They wouldn’t talk to you. It was useless no matter who tried—higher authorities, the labour bureau, or the police … If someone tried to say a few more words, another person would pull him away”.

As Wu’s remarks revealed that the union mostly sided with the factory, believing that there was no real relocation, it faced repeated setbacks in the communication efforts. Eventually, Wu genuinely believed the narrative that there was a “hidden hand” behind the scenes. The union failed to win the workers’ trust and could not become a channel for labour-management communication, which, in turn became a rubber stamp for the factory to dismiss workers. 

CLB later called the federation of trade unions at the Yuanshan District in Shenzhen, where Qiao Feng is located. A union officer, Liu, stated that the unions’ Rights Defense Department was following up on the Qiao Feng strike but refused external inquiries. 

If the Qiao Feng union was able to act as a representative of the workers, demanding the company clarify the equipment relocation, the workers might be less resistant to communication. The union could have negotiated on behalf of the workers and avoided workers’ dismissals. Higher-level unions should reassess the effectiveness of the earlier “Strengthening Plan” to identify which aspects had gaps, leaving the enterprise union without the basic ability to identify workers’ needs.

Many of the brands claimed as Qiao Feng Technology’s customers, such as BMW, Volvo, Tesla, Volkswagen, Mazda, Ford, General Motors, are subject to supply chain law regulations and are obligated to conduct due diligence on labor rights violations. CLB is still following up on the incident.
 

CLB also published two Chinese articles of this case in Chinese.

深圳乔丰科技爆发罢工后暂缓搬迁河源 工人疑被报复式解雇

曾参与深圳劳资纠纷试验区聚力计划 罢工中乔丰工会未代表工人且放任企业解雇工人代表