CHINA> Democracy
Success of democracy
(China Daily)
Updated: 2007-06-30 15:07

Only one abstention shy of unanimity, the smooth sailing of the Labor Contract Law through the National People's Congress Standing Committee was a success of democracy.

During and between the draft law's four readings at the national legislature, lawmakers demonstrated admirable appreciation of different voices.

The 200,000 submissions last year from the general public were invaluable. They were instrumental to the ability of lawmakers to make informed judgments.

We should not ignore the contribution of public participation. The law saw near-unanimous endorsement just because it took into account the full spectrum of public opinions.

The 145 yes votes - only one voter abstained - it received were the best reward possible. We hope it can serve as a strong incentive for legislature at all levels to be more attentive to public opinion in their work.

There is no doubt a law on contracts should take into consideration and balance the interests and concerns of both parties. Both sides were given the opportunity to make their voices heard in the making of this law.

But we embrace the new law first because it serves the pressing need for a labor rights guarantee. It gives our underprivileged workforce an overdue legal means of self-defense against abuse by exploitive employers.

Obligating employers to sign written contracts with employees is a breakthrough of far-reaching significance. In many previous cases of maltreatment by employers, victims had to swallow injustice because there were no written contracts to support their claims.

The compulsory format and content it prescribes for labor contracts are an important guarantee that employee rights are not compromised by intentional ambiguity. This is especially important for vulnerable farmers seeking employment in cities.

Many employers put their workers in vulnerable positions by means of short-term contracts. With workers constantly worried about job security, there are greater chances for exploitive employers to impose on them otherwise unacceptable conditions.

The stipulation of indefinite or long-term contracts in the new law makes it clear that such malpractice is illegal.