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Sacking of union leader sparks dispute
By Fu Jing (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-09-16 01:47

A Beijing-based Sino-Japanese joint venture could soon find itself in court after sacking the workplace's trade union leader.

Tang Xiaodong, the former trade union chairman at Sanhuan Sagami High-Tech Company, accused the company of violating the nation's trade union law, which forbids the sacking of trade unionists during their contract unless they have committed a serious breach of duty.

Tang, who was elected as union leader in August 2003 and sacked at the end of last month, told China Daily he will appeal to the Haidian District People's Court by tomorrow.

The company's management was unavailable for comment Wednesday, but Tang, who was previously a manager of the firm's general affairs department, said the issue was being dealt with a manager named Meng Xiaoyan.

"The company sacked Tang because of his breach of duty," an earlier report quoted Meng as saying.

Meng claimed that, as a manager, Tang had caused the company to suffer economic losses, after it was fined by the Haidian District health bureau because it had failed to get a drinking water supply qualification since 2002.

Because of the loss, Meng said that the company was able to sack him, meaning that he would also have to leave post of union leader.

Union member Zhang Xiangcheng is now the acting chairman of the company's trade union.

But Tang said he should not be the only one to be blamed. His department and the equipment department are responsible for water supply, he pointed out.

Lawyer Wu Ge from Tsinghua University, who is willing to offer legal assistance to Tang, said Tang's alleged misbehaviour was not "serious" and that the company's decision to sack him was illegal.

"The company sack me because I organized workers to protect their legal rights and this is not in the interests of the venture," said Tang, adding that nearly 70 per cent of the company's shares are owned by the Japanese side.

Despite pressure from the owners of the company, Tang, a trade union organizer, was elected chairman last August with the support of local trade union federation of Haidian District, according to an official named Wang.

"He helped us sign labour contracts and arrange pay negotiations with the company," said Wang.

The All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) is attaching great importance to Tang's case.

"As a trade union leader, if he needs any legal aid, we are willing to grant it," said Guo Jun, director of the federation's legal department.

But Guo insisted that if Tang seriously violated the regulations of the company, it was entitled to sack him.

"I'm not clear about the real situation and let's wait for the ruling from the court," said Guo.

The ACFTU has pledged to protect the legal rights of workers' leaders.

Many private and foreign companies across China have deprived employees of their legal right to set up trade unions.

The situation has aroused concerns from China's top legislative body. The National People's Congress (NPC) has organized a campaign this month to see how well the nation's amended trade union law, which came into effect in 2001, is being implemented.

"Trade unions have assumed the responsibility of speaking out for the workers and seeking fair solutions for them," said Wang Zhaoguo, vice-chairman of the NPC Standing Committee. "We should punish those who have prevented the establishment of trade unions in line with the law."

The law requires that an enterprise, organization or institution which employs more than 25 people allows for a trade union to be established.

And trade unions at higher levels are authorized to send officials to enterprises to help the workers set up trade unions, and the enterprises have no right to interfere in the process, the law states.

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