Chery enforces an 896 culture and the employees are not happy about it

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Chinese tech companies have become notorious for their 996 work culture, which Alibaba chairman Jack Ma glorifies. 996 means to work from 9 am until 9 pm each day for six days a week. However, it’s claimed some Chinese car companies are operating an 896 culture with graduate-level employees earning as little as 16 yuan an hour (about 2 USD).

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Yiche reported that several employees had recently complained about the enforced working of overtime at Chery for no additional pay. Much of the allegations center around a fresh graduate who joined Chery last year. He said that in May he worked 120 hours of overtime in addition to his normal 174 hours. However, his salary for May was only 4,800 yuan (660 USD) which works out at just over 16 yuan (2 USD) an hour.  

Another Chery employee said that in order to force overtime the company regularly scheduled meetings after 6 pm and sometimes even as late as 10 pm. Division-level meetings are held on Saturdays.

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Chery has attempted to cover up the fact by simply changing the clock-in history for employees to show their hours as 8.30 to 17.00, despite it being otherwise. This has caused annoyance among many workers. However, some at Chery have made no secret of the company’s view about overtime. Last year the head of Chery’s Automotive Engineering Technology R&D department said “Saturday is a working day for strivers” in an internal email.

Chery Arizzo Star sedan concept showcasing possibly a forthcoming PHEV car on display at the 2023 Shanghai Auto Show.

The email apparently created a lot of internal discussion and Chery responded that the original intention was to learn from the Huawei spirit and let those who wanted, to work hard. Employees however generally felt that it meant Saturday work was expected of them.

Actions by the company back this interpretation up. Overtime hours are used as a way of ranking between departments and can lead to dismissal for workers who do not do overtime. It should be noted that the only compensation offered for overtime is 10 yuan (less than 1.50 USD) for meals. Furthermore, employees report it is very difficult to ask for leave and some departments ban paid leave.

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Editor’s note:

It is difficult to know how much of a problem this is not only within Chery but the Chinese car industry in general. One issue in China is the pervasiveness of WeChat where it is expected that a person can always be contactable and so it is common to be contacted about work related matters late at night.

Interestingly the complaints against Chery seem to relate more to the business and R&D sides rather than the actual production of cars. Back in May we reported on a strike at a BYD plant which was actually about the cancelling of overtime. The factory workers relied on overtime to boost their base salary of 2,490 yuan (345 USD) up to 5,000 to 6,500 yuan (690 to 897 USD). It should also be noted that this blue-collar wage, including overtime, is higher than the amount being earned by starting graduates at Chery.

Source: Yiche

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