Some employees at ByteDance, owner of TikTok, were shocked to find that their August paychecks were slashed by 17% after the company ended its policy requiring its China-based staff to work six days per week every two weeks.
“My workload hasn’t really changed,” a product manager at ByteDance told Reuters, declining to be identified given the sensitivity of the subject. “But unfortunately the pay is lower.”
For the past decade, Chinese tech companies have been known for “996,” a grueling corporate culture that typically means working hours from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., six days a week. But 996 was also seen as a badge of honor and was hailed as a competitive advantage over its American and European rivals.
It was also a guarantee of a high salary as Chinese law states that employees are entitled to double pay for overtime worked on weekends and triple pay for public holidays.
ByteDance declined to comment on the pay cuts which have been widely discussed on social media. A separate source from the company said staff can still be paid overtime on weekends if they have to meet deadlines, adding that some employees at its gaming unit had recently done so.
Some tech workers began pushing back 996 about two years ago – a move that has garnered support from authorities concerned with promoting socialist values and workers’ rights as they push forward sweeping regulatory reforms. span. Last month, China’s highest court ruled 996 as illegal.
Other tech companies such as the short video platform Kuaishou and food delivery giant Meituan have also recently reduced mandatory overtime on weekends.
Another boon to workers’ rights, ridesharing giant Didi Global and e-commerce powerhouse JD.com have set up government-backed unions in recent weeks – a revolutionary development in the tech industry where the organized work has so far been very rare. .
Authorities are also pushing to impose more breaks on workers, especially in the food delivery sector where companies have been accused of pushing drivers to meet tight deadlines at the expense of safety.
Meituan said he would introduce such breaks. The southern city of Xiamen has also asked companies to set up a “20-minute break every four working hours” for delivery people, the People’s Daily said this week.
However, concerns remain about the unintended consequences.
“Won’t that limit their income? Said a user on Weibo, similar to Twitter in China, citing how these drivers are paid per order. “This will cause more problems, won’t they drive even faster to deliver?” Another said.
Reduced pay could also be a problem for staff retention and the question of whether companies should increase wages to compensate workers for lost overtime has become one of the most viewed on Weibo this week, with more of 120 million views.
“After receiving my paycheck this month, I want to know – are there other companies still doing 996 in Shanghai? »Posted a ByteDance employee.