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Wal-Mart urged to establish trade unions
( 2003-08-25 16:03) (Agencies)

China's government-controlled union body is pressuring Wal-Mart to establish trade unions for thousands of its employees, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

The Beijing branch of the US-based supermarket chain, Wal-Mart.
The All-China Federation of Trade Unions says Wal-Mart, the world's biggest retailer, has not set up trade unions in any of its branches in China, leaving workers without protection of their legal rights, Xinhua said.

``The best way to protect workers rights is to sign group contracts with employers through trade unions, which can protect workers' rights involving wage negotiation, vacations, and discharge regulations,'' Feng Lijun, a Beijing ACFTU official was quoted as saying Sunday by Xinhua.

Wal-Mart opened its first outlet in Beijing in July, adding to its list of 22 other stores elsewhere in the country.

Feng said the organization has contacted Wal-Mart several times since its Beijing stores opened but ``no progress has been made in establishing trade unions.''
Wal-Mart officials in Beijing did not answer their telephones Monday.

According to Chinese law, all workers have the right to join a trade union, but companies are only required to allow the establishment of a union if more then three workers request it, Xinhua said.

In Beijing, only 2,000 of the city's 5,000 foreign enterprises have established trade unions, Xinhua said.

It said that China has revised labor laws to protect workers' rights and punish companies that prevent workers from joining their trade union.

``However, we are still facing difficulties in establishing branches of ACFTU in foreign-funded companies like Wal-Mart due to their reluctance to be cooperative,'' Wang Ying, an ACFTU official, was quoted as saying.

The All-China Federation of Trade Unions is the only group China's communist government allows to organize workers. Unions do exist, but they are controlled by the government, and those who start independent organizations are routinely arrested and sometimes given harsh sentences as a warning to others.

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