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Chinese IT firm 'bullies' Swedish workers: report

Rebecca Martin · 8 Jun 2011, 12:01

Published: 08 Jun 2011 12:01 GMT+02:00

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“Public humiliation was part of the working day,” said one interviewee to SR.

Huawei is one of the largest telecom companies in the world. It established its Sweden branch a few years ago and today employs 500 staff in Sweden.

It is often described as the largest competitor to Sweden’s telecommunications behemoth Ericsson.

But according to 20 anonymous current and former employees who spoke with SR, it is very much a Chinese company in Sweden.

Workers who met Chinese board’s disproval could be transferred without warning to a different department or a different country in what one interviewee viewed as a ploy to "get rid" of workers that didn't meet expectations.

“Two sales people were told off in front of the entire staff for leaving early one day to pick up the kids from day care. The manager told them that they should prepare a Power Point presentation for the next day to show why they should get to keep their jobs,” another said to SR.

But the Managing Director of Huawei Nordic Office, James Chen, does not agree that there is a problem at the company, and told SR that out of the 500, only 15 have left the company in the last two and a half years.

This indicates employees are happy with their workplace, according to Chen, defending the transfers as a way to give workers "a new chance".

But Swedish trade union Unionen confirms the image presented by the employees at Huawei.

The union has been trying to get the company to sign a collective agreement for some time and has been asked by the Huawei employees for help.

“There is a pecking order. The board of directors is completely Chinese, the middle management is mainly Swedish and the workers mainly Chinese,” said Kari Anderson at Unionen to The Local.

According to Andersson, the punishments vary from harassment to threats.

“if you are seen as 'uncomfortable' you get transferred. One Chinese girl told us that when she had come with a suggestion she had been told that if she isn't a blonde they didn't care about what she thought” Andersson said.

Andersson thinks that the problems originate in a culture clash between the Chinese way of managing a company to the Swedish way.

"Chinese leadership looks entirely different to the Swedish model. Here we value dialogue and mutual respect between managers and more junior employees," she said.

The question, according to Andersson, is whether it is acceptable that a foreign company that establishes itself in Sweden and is in competition with Swedish companies, doesn't follow Swedish work ethics.

Story continues below…

"Perhaps we need to put our foot down and show that this is not the way we want companies to act here," she said to The Local.

The union will continue to support its members and work for a collective agreement between the members and the company.

But according to James Chen there are no threats or harassment at Huawei Sweden.

“That simply doesn’t happen. The staff is the most important asset of the company. Why should I threaten them?” Chen asked SR.

Rebecca Martin (rebecca.martin@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

13:01 June 8, 2011 by ruby_18559
tip of the iceberg......
13:09 June 8, 2011 by StockholmSam
A classic example of how a weakened economy is a tremendous threat to democracy and basic human rights; once employees are in a position of extreme vulnerability due to a very tight job market, they sacrifice basic liberties in order to keep the crappy jobs they have. Corporations have been well aware of this for centuries. It is why collective bargaining rights must be protected. Though China is going to emerge as the next economic superpower, we are not bound to accept their ruthless, nondemocratic management style as that will filter into other areas of life eventually. But it will put Sweden at a disadvantage if we resist it completely. This is a threat on the horizon that is bound to get ugly.
13:21 June 8, 2011 by jagsaknarsverige
13:34 June 8, 2011 by all_black
"only 15 have left the company in the last two and a half years.

This indicates employees are happy with their workplace, according to Chen"

What an infant-like mind, breaking peoples spirits and confidence isnt necessarily a reflection of happy workers. A strange way to measure happiness.
13:34 June 8, 2011 by swedejane
Yep...You think it was so bad with America as the lone superpower, well guess what: you're going to pine away for those days once the Chinese are running the show. And Sweden continuing to sell of its major industries and holdings to the Chinese certainly won't help matters here. They'll just take the intellectual property and make the cheap knockoffs back home.
13:35 June 8, 2011 by djmarko
I have worked with Chinese colleagues in Beijing before, different cultures, they are a special bunch, they have to be handled with care, not totally surprised, the Swedish working mentality and Chinese work ethics are always likely to clash, funny enough, the Chinese i used to work with have sleeping breaks on their desks during lunch hour, some used to play computer games, play station and what not, quite hard to get used to at first when you see your colleague sleeping at their desk, but in my experience, nice people to work with!
13:37 June 8, 2011 by StuartM
Collective bargaining and trade union representation should be made compulsory in all sectors in order to cut down on this type of thing. It is perhaps not surprising that a company based in a dictatorship such as China would treat its workers in such a contemptuous and authoritarian way but in many ways this is symptomatic of the lack of democracy which exists within the economy in all capitalist countries. Palme had a plan to extend democracy to the economic sphere as well as the political (through giving workers a greater say over the management of their companies and workplaces) and it is a real shame that that dream never became a reality in Sweden.
14:02 June 8, 2011 by djmarko
The Chinese do a have a disciplined work force, almost military like work place in China, Am sure the management are trying to introduce this to their Swedish workforce, it is maybe a clash of personalities, culture and what not, maybe the Chinese need to learn the Swedish laid back work lifestyle, hopefully compromise!
14:07 June 8, 2011 by technoviking
I believe this is called "motivational speaking" in China.
14:08 June 8, 2011 by Syftfel
@StuartM: "Collective bargaining and trade union representation" is exactly what is NOT needed. Such antiquated phenomena is a thing of the past and absolutely not needed, at least not in Sweden. And palme, this useless marxist sewer rat, is the cause of all the ills the afflict Sweden today, and certainly the worst historical event to ever be imposed on the Nordic countries. May his legacy be dropped and delegated to a footnote in history. In fact, extricate him from the history books!! He is nothing to look up to. He should be scorned, discarded and viewed as a serious, temporary, vile, socialist, harmful, mistake!
14:36 June 8, 2011 by StuartM
@ Syftfel

Palme a 'marxist sewer rat' simply for wanting more democracy and standing up to US and Soviet imperialism? You really have a warped and twisted way of looking at things. Palme was, in my view, a great and courageous Prime Minister and an example to the rest of the world. Exactly the kind of person both Sweden and the Social Democratic Party need today in a society plagued by injustice and inequality and where the rights of working people are being constantly trampled upon and diminished in the interests of a tiny, rich elite. And how exactly trade unions have become 'antiquated' and irrelevant is quite beyond when workers are being exploited and taken advantage of more so that any time since perhaps the 1930s.
14:36 June 8, 2011 by Åskar
Syftfel, have you forgotten to take your medicine?
14:38 June 8, 2011 by StockholmSam

You are flat-out wrong. WIthout collective bargaining, it becomes a race to the bottom where workers become little more than slaves to the powerful corporations and their high-octane lawyers. If anything, it is needed more today than ever. And as for Palme, just note that life in Sweden is better than in probably 99% of the other nations of the world for the average citizen. How can you complain about that?
14:39 June 8, 2011 by StuartM
Or rather I should have said "And how exactly trade unions have become 'antiquated' and irrelevant is quite beyond me when workers are being exploited and taken advantage of more so than at any time since perhaps the 1930s."
14:53 June 8, 2011 by occassional
A bit of a slanted eyed view of the employment world these lot have then.
15:37 June 8, 2011 by TheOriginalBlackMan
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
16:22 June 8, 2011 by stupr

You have clearly gone off topic and it doesn't even make sense. Your rant is full of assumptions and bigoted stereotyping.
17:22 June 8, 2011 by technoviking
@ overcompensating black man

So you write on a computer designed by white men and manufactured by Asians...

Where are the technological achievements of your superior black "race"?
18:31 June 8, 2011 by TheOriginalBlackMan

Ancient Kemet (Ancient Egypt) was a 100% Black African built and ruled. Why am I so sure? Because radiocarbon evidence, location and Black Africans tare the only ones who allowed equality between master and servant. According to Professor Cheik Anta Diop, master and servant ate side by side in African society. The master was never superior to the servant. We know for a fact that Europeans and Arabs would never allow their servants or slaves to eat at the same table with them, and they would certainly not allow their slaves or servants to be buried alongside them.

Black Africa birthplace of humanity and civilization.
19:02 June 8, 2011 by Species125
I'm adding "sewer rat" to my repertoire.
19:04 June 8, 2011 by Rick Methven
" name='TheOriginalBlackMan' date='8.Jun.2011, 06:31 PM' post='651906'

Black Africa birthplace of humanity and civilization"

Which it lost when you where born.

As a person of humanity and civilisation, the closest that I can associate you with is Idi Amin
19:21 June 8, 2011 by technoviking
@ overcompensating black man

Yes, Egypt was a great civilization thousands of years ago.

And there are plenty of talented, accomplished black people in the world today.

But interesting that, despite our alleged inferiority, you write in the language of my white ancestors.

As a matter of fact, even better, you THINK in the language of my white ancestors.

How did that happen??

Enjoy thinking about it in English.
19:39 June 8, 2011 by calebian22
It seems rather odd that this seems to be a problem. My former company was not interested in registering their company in Sweden because the steps required were laborious, ridiculously in depth and intrusive regarding how they would conduct business in Sweden . I wonder if their was a luxury car and summer house purchasing bonanza by certain government officials after Huawei registered and started up here in Sweden? Naaaah!
21:05 June 8, 2011 by uduck
If HuaWei refuses to integrate to the swedish culture, then they should bring their business elsewhere. This is Sweden, not China. Don't expect everyone to conform with your ideology.
00:56 June 9, 2011 by matona1
sex is more pronounced in sweden than work,if u start looking for work and sex you woll have sex for free b4 work,so my people listen to chinese and go to work ,lazy people
10:56 June 9, 2011 by Max Reaver

Sweden needs Chinese companies here to solve the unemployment problem, NOT the other way around. With Volvo Car and Saab suddenly becoming Chinese companies all of a sudden, the Swedish industry and job market is not in a position to bargain about who has the superior culture.
12:15 June 9, 2011 by friendonlyyours
I like their spirit what you sow shell you reap. Swedes are more bad then those. They show you they are very happy with you, show you good behavior but in their hearts they have something else. Specially on jobs they have so much racism. They can speak english but they are imposing swedish so that other talented people cannot come forward. They are mostly lazy and unproductive people, they have to get the child from school on job, lunch then so called fika and then as klock shows 5 they get rid of everything and go home. There union take money from companies and make policies which are mostly not in favor of employees. That so called collective agreement you can never understand, they signed 3 hours contract with you as a regular rate and then give you 2 hours more work forcefully and payment is according to collective agreement which is very less.
15:24 June 9, 2011 by rafa1981

Knowing Swedish opens some doors in Sweden ??

Sometimes people think that we the Europeans are an homogeneous group that happily speaks English, this is not the Old United States of Europe, every nation it is having its own language, and without knowing it, full integration is impossible.

We the Europeans have been fighting each other for centuries, so for some people in some countries speaking English is a sign of submission to be avoided, for others it is not that deep, but it is less comfortable than their own language and they are more spontaneous in their mother tongue.

You don't realize that you are in a privileged location in that regard that you are complaing of. Try to go to Germany, Austria, France, Spain, Italy etc... just speaking English, you will have a very bad time to ask someone on the streets for something.

If you are speaking about promoting I suppose you are a long term resident, learn Swedish.
16:26 June 10, 2011 by sweedy82
"This is Sweden, not China"..haha OMFG... this is exactly the same thing the Chinese say when you're there.. "This is China!" :)
18:43 June 11, 2011 by wakak

I agree 200% with your analysis. Swedish complacency is totally out dated: Swedes are so proud about their fikas, 5 weeks holidays in a row (when it is not 6), leaving work at 3 pm.... and globally not giving a damn about the outcome of their lazyness on the companies which are kind enough to employ them. The future of world economics is in Asian model, not the Nordics one.

People in this country should wake up.... Huawei will help, and hopefully other international companies.
23:00 June 11, 2011 by Stephen Sweden
What is all this? Chinese half brained cyclopic sqealing managerial piglets trying to impose bullying on my Swedish friends. Okay, first duplicate Liu Xiaobo to the tune of a thousand so a raptous, enormous laugh echoes around Sweden at the worst human rights record the world has seen. Then slaughter them at Norra Brunn.

They impose capital punishment on people who have no subsistance and sell cigarettes to survive. They shoot them in the back of the head, send the bill to the family and sell the organs to medical research. Guess what l would like to do with these little turkeys. Impose Viking law and spead eagle them. You do have choices of course. Where are the cartoonists?

When the Scandinavian press get their back up this example of management will have no place in the free world. Turn them round, fire them from a cannon back to one of the most politically despotic, over bearing hell holes on the face of this planet,

Upgrade the Swedish middle management who may then decide to employ a number of school leavers. I shall write the CVs for them.

I have taught this lot. They study English but the speaking component is not on the curriculum. It says everything about them. A nasty bunch.

Norra Brunn, you have work to do. Quote Bellman's humour. Defend yourselves.
05:41 June 12, 2011 by Icarusty
Don't be a racist Stephen, cyclopic squealing piglets indeed... how does this get through moderation???
22:20 June 16, 2011 by Cage
If you start a company in a foreign country, you should expect that the people working for you will want to follow the customs of their country in the workplace. Huawei moved offices to Sweden, Sweden did not move people to China. I suspect there is alot more bullying taking place, but people will tolerate the abuse because we all know how hard it is to find jobs in Sweden. Ultimately this company will lose though because as word gets out that they are unfair to their employees, people will avoid working for them and their expansion will become limited. How is Toys R Us doing these days?
04:53 July 8, 2011 by shenmingjie
i am a chinese , i think Sweden is a greet country . i also hope you can love china .

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