Companies urged to allow trade unions
( 2003-08-14 08:51) (China Daily)
The All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) yesterday urged private and foreign companies to allow the establishment of trade unions in order to safeguard the legal rights of their employees.
Some private and foreign companies in China have been trying to prevent their employees from establishing trade unions, which are playing an increasing role in protecting workers' legal rights, according to the federation.
"Parts of such companies, especially the branch operations of transnational companies, refuse to set up trade unions," said Guo Wencai, director of the ACFTU Grass-roots Organization Department.
Wang Ying, a division director of the department, said the United States-based leading international retailer Wal-Mart was refusing to allow the establishment of unions in its Chinese branch operations.
"We've made increased efforts for several years but failed," said Wang.
Sources at the headquarters of Wal-Mart's China operations, based in South China's Shenzhen, admitted there were no trade unions in its stores in several Chinese cities.
"We have no trade unions and have never seen any explanation why no such unions exist," said a public relations officer surnamed Huang reached by China Daily via telephone.
She said no senior Wal-Mart officer was available for comment as they are on holiday.
But ACFTU official Wang Ying said Wal-Mart's official explanation was that the multinational company did not allow the formation of trade unions in any of its global operations.
Wang said some owners of foreign-funded enterprises do abide by China's laws and regulations and encourage their employees to join unions.
But she also said more work needs to be done to inform foreign investors of China's laws on trade unions.
The latest ACFTU statistics indicated that China has 400,000 foreign companies, but only one-fifth have set up trade unions. About 40 per cent of two million private enterprises have set up trade unions.
"And workers need unions more than ever to represent and protect their interests," said Wang.
Guan Binfeng, another ACFTU division director, said infringement of employee's legal rights frequently took place in foreign and private companies without trade unions.
A survey conducted by the provincial Department of Labour and Social Security of China's economic powerhouse of Guangdong revealed that 85 per cent of about 26 million migrant workers in the province have to work for 10 to 14 hours every day and nearly half of them have no rest day, and most of them are not paid for overtime.
The Chinese Government has stipulated that the maximum working day is eight hours and that the working week should not exceed 40 hours. Employers must double or triple wages paid for extra hours.
Since last year, several State Council departments have joined hands with the ACFTU to deal with payment arrears problems.
Unions are essential to protecting the interests and rights of workers and resolving worker-management relations, and the number of trade unions should be increased particularly in non-State-owned enterprises, said Guan.
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