Union fixes charter to cover rights of migrant workers

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 October, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 October, 2008, 12:00am

The country's sole trade union organisation concluded its five-yearly national congress yesterday by amending its charter to address the rights of tens of millions of migrant workers.

The All-China Federation of Trade Unions, the world's largest union federation with 209 million members, made 28 revisions to its previous charter in a bid to protect the neglected rights of migrant workers.

The five-day meeting was attended by 2,118 delegates, including, for the first time, 47 migrant workers. Those 47 represented about 210 million rural residents who quit working the land to labour in city factories.

According to the new charter, migrant workers have the same rights to join the trade union as employees in companies and government agencies. Previously, only 'workers who work for enterprises and government units, and whose main sources of income are salaries' were qualified to apply.

'It makes the labour union accessible to millions of migrant workers by writing their legitimate rights into the charter and simplifying the application process,' Xinhua quoted Jia Duanyang , vice-director of the federation's organisation department, as saying.

The new charter also gives more credence to grass-roots unions, which often lack organisation because of a shortage of funding. Funds would be established at village and higher levels to support union work, it guaranteed. It also emphasises dialogue and co-operation with unions throughout the world.

The Communist Party-controlled organisation also elected a new leadership at its 15th congress, with Wang Zhaoguo , a member of the Politburo, endorsed as president for the third time.

At the closing ceremony, Mr Wang vowed to 'guide workers with socialist core values' and 'strive to build a socialist trade union with Chinese characteristics'.

Wu Qingbin , the vicepresident of the trade union federation of central-controlled agencies, was quoted as saying: 'It [the charter] pointed out that China's union federation is essentially different from that in western countries.'

Independent trade unions are not permitted in China and organisers of them have been imprisoned.

To underscore the Communist Party's commitment to workers - long enshrined in the party charter as a major force in social evolution - President Hu Jintao had a discussion session with some representatives yesterday afternoon.

Mr Hu urged them to become 'role models' for advancing 'scientific development' and promoting 'social harmony' - both pet projects of his.

Migrant workers are heavily under-represented in the federation, and because of a lack of institutionalised protection, their legitimate rights can easily be overlooked. About 66 million - or less than one-third of China's massive army of migrant workers - have joined the trade union, the latest statistics from the federation show.