Labor leaders in Beijing's Central Business District have set an ambitious target to more than triple the number of workers covered by trade unions by the end of 2011.
Only 30 of its 3,000 companies have union representatives, covering less than 10 percent of the 200,000-strong workforce. "We aim to make that 30 percent this year," Li Guangbiao, president of the CBD's federation of trade unions, told METRO.
In contrast, statistics from the Beijing Municipal Federation of Trade Unions show that 92 percent of the 611 top overseas firms with Beijing headquarters have unions.
One of the difficulties is that employers simply do not care, said Li, whose federation was established last November. He complained that executives often put the issue on the backburner once they learn that offering access to unions is not a legal responsibility.
Some foreign firms do not know how Chinese unions operate and fear they could disrupt management or production, he added.
According to regulations, unions work to aid an enterprise's development while safeguarding workers' rights. "Trade unions are a communication platform to connect employers and employees," said Li, before admitting that his staff needs to work harder on passing that information to foreign employers.
The CBD federation hosts forums and mixers to raise awareness of unions, as well as activities for workers. About 80 percent of the workers who take part are young people, said Li.
Aside from the cultural and entertainment event, the federation also runs a shuttle bus to and from nearby subway stations. "We want employees to feel our efforts through these services and eventually accept us," said Li.