Huge rise in labour unrest

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 August, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 August, 1994, 12:00am

CHINA last year reported a dramatic upsurge of labour disputes, indicating that widespread discontent exists among the labour force.

The alarming increase in labour disputes was revealed in a recent conference in Beijing at which the participants called for better co-ordination between the Government and labour unions to protect workers' interests.

The two-day conference - organised by the Ministry of Labour, All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) and the State Economic and Trade Commission - was the first joint effort by the authorities since 1987 when Beijing re-established a national labour arbitration system to monitor the increasingly volatile labour market in the country.

China banned all self-organised labour unions except the Communist Party-sponsored ACFTU, although the Chinese constitution states that Chinese workers have the right to organise unions and to strike.

According to a report in the China Youth Daily yesterday, the national arbitration system registered a total of 12,385 complaints, up 51.6 per cent from 1992.

By the end of last year, the system, which was mainly made up of arbitrators from the ACFTU and the Communist Party, had handled 62,861 cases and recruited more than a million professional and part-time arbitrators, the report said.

Quoting the participants, the report said the past few years showed a consistent pattern. As the economy took off, labour disputes rose correspondingly.

However, the conference offered no solutions to the pressing problems, except to say that the authorities would continue their efforts to ''perfect'' the present system.

Foreign researchers who monitor the labour situation in China pointed out that the absence of legal protection, corruption among officials and widespread abuse of power by the police and a lack of awareness of workers' rights among the labourers, were the main reasons behind the rapid increase of labour disputes in China.