Chinese Companies’ Business Practices and Core Labour Standards: A South African, Zambian and Zimbabwean Perspective
Authors Tapiwa V Warikandwa, Patrick C Osode
Affiliations: Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Mercantile Law, Nelson R Mandela School of Law, University of Fort Hare, South Africa; Professor and Head, Department of Mercantile Law, Nelson R Mandela School of Law, University of Fort Hare, South Africa
Source: Africa Nazarene University Law Journal, 2016, Issue 1, p. 102 – 122
Chinese businesses in Africa have been associated with low levels of compliance with core labour standards. The undesirable results have manifested in the form of poor wages for workers, contempt of occupational health and safety procedures and denial of basic workers’ rights, such as the rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining. In the contemporary human rights driven era, negative attitudes towards core labour rights are out of place. Labour rights must now be viewed as human rights and be treated as an enabler that is indispensable to the developing countries’ pursuit of economic development and substantial improvement in the general welfare of their people. This article examines the current trade practices of Chinese-run businesses in South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. It demonstrates that the exclusion of a trade—labour rights linkage from the World Trade Organization (WTO) legal framework might be contributing to the entrenchment of the said trade practices. Sadly, as this article indicates, African countries, like most developing countries, resist calls to incorporate core labour standards into the law of the multilateral trading system, arguing that a lower level of compliance with core labour standards is one of the critical sources of their comparative advantage.