July 31st, 2010 | China Daily Labor unions to ‘hire’ leaders
Labor union leaders across the country will receive their salaries from higher-level unions instead of companies that employ them by 2011, the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) has said.
The move aims to free union leaders of dependency on their companies so that they can better protect workers’ rights.
The new system comes in response to questions raised on the functioning of Chinese labor unions, whose leaders fear offending their companies that pay them salaries.
“We have already invested 10 million yuan this year to experiment with the new system in 10 provinces and cities, where unions will hire professional leaders,” said Guo Wencai, director of the grassroots organization and capacity building department of the ACFTU.
The ACFTU also called for an increase in the influence of labor unions at a time when conflicts between employees and employers are at an all-time high.
“In recent times, some enterprises, especially foreign-funded and Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan companies, have seen more and more conflicts and mass incidents due to labor and income disputes,” said Li Shouzhen, spokesman for the ACFTU. “The situation demands an improvement in labor unions’ work, especially unions in non-public enterprises.”
Emphasizing the role of union leaders, the ACFTU said they should be elected through democratic procedures, with the standard that all companies with more than 200 employees should have a union president.
Li also said the “collective contract mechanism” should be the most important method to protect workers’ rights.
“It shouldn’t be the employers who solely decide worker salaries. Labor unions at different levels should make it their goal to realize the collective contract mechanism, which is an effective negotiation between workers and employers, by 2012,” he said.
Over the past few months, workers from auto parts suppliers and other manufacturers in China, mostly foreign-funded, have gone on strikes to demand higher pay, saying wages have not increased with rising prices or profits.
Workers in a Honda engine gear factory in Guangdong province won a 24-percent wage hike after a two-week strike last month. Close on the heels, Toyota, the world’s largest automaker, also agreed to discuss wage increases with workers who went on strike at an assembly plant in Tianjin last month.
The world’s largest contract electronics manufacturer, Foxconn Technology Group, doubled the basic salary of its employees after a spate of worker suicides in its Shenzhen factories in Guangdong.
Amid the wave of strikes and suicides, the media has criticized the national trade union for not doing enough to help protect workers’ rights and improve their wages or working conditions.
By Wang Jingqiong