Workers get new protection pledge

By Guan Xiaofeng (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-05-16 07:02

China's top trade union body yesterday renewed its pledge to protect workers' rights and interests with the release of a blue paper.

The "2006 Blue Paper on Chinese Trade Unions Safeguarding the Rights and Interests of All Workers," issued by the All-China Federation of Trade Unions, said substantial progress had been made in developing trade unions in China last year.

According to the paper, by September last year, China had 1.32 million grassroot trade unions, an increase of 12.7 percent over 2005.

It now has 170 million trade union members. Migrant workers comprise 40.97 million.

Gu Changsheng, a spokesman with the federation, said at a press conference in Beijing yesterday that some foreign companies, still refusing or obstructing the establishment of trade unions, were an obstacle to further development.

He said the case of some foreign fast-food restaurants underpaying part-time workers in the southern city of Guangzhou last month showed that trade unions must be strengthened in the non-public economic sectors.

However, Gu said some major foreign companies had responded by taking the initiative to set up trade unions.

For example, McDonald's had promised to set up trade unions at all its outlets in South China's Guangdong Province by next month and in East China's Zhejiang Province by the end of this year.

"This is another breakthrough. Fast-food companies have numerous outlets and employ a large number of people," Gu said.

"Sound labor-management relations in foreign companies will attract more foreign investment."

Gu said the federation and the Ministry of Labor and Social Security would jointly carry out a nationwide check next month on foreign enterprises' use of workers, involving wages, work quotas and security.

The federation has set an ambitious target of having trade unions set up in more than 70 per cent of foreign-funded enterprises this year.

More than 60 per cent of foreign firms had already set up trade unions by the end of last year.

Gu also announced at the meeting the start of the sixth national survey on the situation of Chinese workers. The fifth survey was done in 2002.

The survey will investigate 42,000 samples across the country, including 12,000 migrant workers.

(China Daily 05/16/2007 page4)

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