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Foreign companies ignoring labour laws
By Fu Jing (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-04-29 06:38

Nearly one out of three foreign-invested ventures in China have set up trade unions to protect legal rights of employees, a senior unionist has announced.

While naming Wal-Mart again for its refusal to organize unions, the official criticized some foreign enterprises for not abiding by China's Trade Union Law.

"Some (foreign) enterprises, with Wal-Mart being representative, turned a blind eye to China's Trade Union Law and set very negative examples during the country's unionizing effort," Guo Wencai, organization department director of All-China Federation of Trade Unions, was quoted by the People's Daily yesterday.

Guo said the majority of the foreign enterprises have shown respect to the country's labour laws and rendered support for employees to join trade unions.

However, statistics indicated that employees in only about 160,000 foreign firms have been unionized.

There are 480,000 such enterprises registered in China. Of the 500 multinational companies, more than 300 have set up branches in China.

While pointing out that it's a lawful responsibility for employees, Guo urged workers of the foreign companies to set up unions to harmonize labour relationship.

"It's not only a matter of law-abiding but also a means to form harmonious labour-capital relationship," said Guo.

"After being unionized, better-protected employees will be motivated for healthy development of enterprises," said Guo.

Putting China's laws aside, some enterprises are finding "many excuses" to avoid unionization. For example, the world's leading retailer Wal-Mart said being unionized is not a practice for all of its branches worldwide.

Guo also blamed some local governments for their action as "protection umbrellas" for foreign enterprises.

He said some local officials are more interested in how much foreign capital the enterprises can bring and take a laissez-faire attitude to their refusal to be unionized.

(China Daily 04/29/2005 page2)

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