Tech

Fired Pinduoduo employee says company exploits workers

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A former Pinduoduo employee is speaking out about poor working conditions at the Chinese e-commerce giant after posting online a photo of a co-worker being taken away by an ambulance from the company’s Shanghai headquarters.

Why it matters: The former employee’s complaints about the e-commerce company has further fueled social-media backlash against overtime work schedules at Chinese tech firms. Pinduoduo is the target of a fresh wave of online criticism for its alleged coverup through its punishment of the whistleblower.

  • Last week, the death of 23-year-old Pinduoduo employee reignited online discussions about the overtime work culture at Chinese tech giants.
  • On Jan. 9, another Pinduoduo employee died after jumping from the 27th floor of an apartment building in Changsha, the capital of central Hunan province.

Details: The morning of Jan. 7, the employee, surnamed Wang, witnessed a co-worker taken away by an ambulance at an exit of Pinduoduo’s Shanghai headquarters. He posted anonymously a picture of the scene on Chinese social networking platform Maimai, where the topic quickly went viral.

  • Pinduoduo fired Wang the next day. In a statement sent to TechNode, Pinduoduo denied firing Wang for his Jan. 7 Maimai post, saying it ended Wang’s work contract because he had previously posted several comments the firm considers “extreme,” in violation of the company’s employee guide. Pinduoduo included comments it attributed to Wang including “I want to kill XX” and “I want Pinduoduo to die” (our translation) on Maimai as examples.
  • Since he was fired, Wang has continued to speak out against what he says are toxic working conditions at Pinduoduo, where pressure to work excessive hours is endangering employees’ health.
  • “Employees at Shanghai headquarters are required to work more than 300 hours per month.. and workers at the grocery unit have to work more than 380 hours per month,” Wang said in a 15-minute vlog on video platform Bilibili. Chinese labor law specifies a standard 40-hour work week.
  • His complaints include a number of details about the company’s working conditions, including a limited number of toilets, shortened official holidays, and delayed year-end bonuses.
  • Wang’s firing has also drawn public ire over Maimai’s user privacy practices, since Pinduoduo was able to quickly identify him despite his anonymous posting. Maimai CEO Lin Fan has denied (in Chinese) that the company shares user data to third parties.

Context: Overtime schedules like the infamous “996” and “10-12-6” have drawn widespread attention as recent deaths of tech employees are stoking intense public discussion.

READ MORE: INSIGHTS: 996 and China speed—Slowing growth in the face of a changing workforce

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