Great Wall Motor – above the law in Baoding

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A Foreign Engineer’s Experience Working in 7DCT Development Project with GWM.

I left Germany behind to come to Baoding and work in Great Wall Motor’s so called “Transmission Research Institute” in early 2015. In the first weeks I had a good impression of the company as a whole: They had the best of new facilities like test rigs, environment test chambers, proving ground, and an impressive new development centre was just about to be finished. I believed that the company was really going to be on a path of sustainable success and was soon going to carry out their own serious developments instead of merely copying or letting foreign companies do the development work. With a very long-term perspective in mind I invested a large sum of the money I earned before at German OEMs in GWM’s H-shares. However after several months the problems of the company and the project in particular became more and more apparent to me:

• People were mainly busy with reporting and attending useless training (no relation to work necessities) instead of doing actual work.

• The different departments (“companies”) were not working together in a joint effort.

• In spite of the company’s claims the actual culture was about whitewashing and fear of punishment. That is why problems are not solved but merely covered for as long as possible.

• Expensive test trips are highly ineffective.

• Development work is not structured and with a systematic approach. Lots of money is wasted bringing in several Western companies for doing the same things in parallel. There is a clear lack of leadership.

• Identification with the company and it’s products among employees is low or in most cases there was even a negative attitude towards the company.

• The employee turnover in the 7DCT project team and especially in “Software and Calibration” as well as “Testing” is very high. That includes Chinese and foreign employees alike. Escaping the Great Walls via a “midnight run” – going home for vacation and never returning back to the post – is a common phenomena among foreigners.

The work environment is frustrating for people who want to make a difference. The good people leave the company after about one or two years. People who cannot find a better job and are left over to become lower level management just for the fact that they are the only ones who didn’t leave. These people with their inertia will resist any change and advancement.

Regarding my personal case, I had some issues with the HR department since I joined the company. Basically it can be summarized with what I have recorded my HR manager saying – to put it mildly: They think they don’t need to care about what is written down in the work contract as well as abiding by Chinese laws. Great Wall Motor is situated in Baoding – in spite it is hard to find qualified people to go to this polluted city – because only in Baoding they have their “guanxi networks” with government institutions that allows them to do as they please with their employees and don’t have to fear sanctions regarding their behaviour (even if they are very straight forwardly stipulated by law).

As I couldn’t reach a result with my HR to follow my work contract and Chinese law about a few things such as:

• Paying salary in full and on time

• Paying tax and social security

• Providing the company rules

• Grant agreed upon rest time and holidays

• Provide overtime compensation

And also my documents were withheld to put me under pressure.

After consultation with the responsible labour bureau of the district to bring about some change my employer was contacted by the city’s labour department and soon after that I was informed by my HR that my work performance wouldn’t meet the job requirements any more and they cut my salary in half. I didn’t agree and thus received a termination. That was all about two weeks after contacting the labour department of Baoding and at this point I was working for 16 months in the company. The probation period ended after three months without complaints or suggestions. Also the evaluation done just half a year before the incident didn’t hint a lack of performance. The “adjustment of the position” as well as the termination don’t say where there was a lack of performance and also didn’t offer a chance to “improve.” Even assuming a lawful termination the mandatory severance was not paid.

Trying to have labour arbitration after the termination was not successful. The authorities in Baoding “kicked the ball” between the offices all over Baoding and delayed the proceedings beyond the time limits clearly written down in the relevant laws. All the various labour administrative places I went to in Baoding were sure they would not be responsible for dealing with a case against GWM, but at the same time they immediately sent their security camera footage of me and my supporting friend to GWM. Soon enough he was contacted and threatened.

GWM is still illegally withholding my documents since months to make it impossible for me to find a new job. They tried to blackmail me so that I could receive them after I sign a resignation agreement. Now their strategy is to wait things out until my visa expires. This is typical problem solving attitude in GWM. Along those lines they also took away my accommodation in the company on the day following my last day at work. Trying to push the people away as soon as possible so they don’t have a chance to assume their rights.

I hope I can warn other people – especially foreigners who may never have heard about Great Wall before – to give up their jobs and lives trusting the lies they are told by HR to come to Baoding. Do your research and ask people who have been with GWM before coming here!

What rights should China grant expats? – EChinacities responds

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