Wider role for unions urged
THE low rate of unionisation in foreign-funded enterprises in central Hubei province is the reason behind serious abuses of labour rights, the Hubei Daily said yesterday.
Despite the promulgation of China's first set of labour laws, which is to become effective on January 1 and which guarantees the right to organise unions, independent trade unions and strikes are still banned.
'Because of the low rate of unionisation, it is difficult to guarantee the lawful rights of workers,' the paper said.
In the 1,100 foreign-funded enterprises in the Hubei, only 372 had unions, the paper said.
It said overtime, dismissal without sufficient reasons, improper implementation of a workers' insurance scheme, and equal-job/unequal-pay were more significant in foreign-owned enterprises.
'To form unions is an important measure to better handle the various internal relationships in these foreign-owned enterprises,' Huang Yuan, standing committee member of the Hubei Provincial Committee, was quoted as saying.
Last month, the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) pledged to organise workers in more than 50 per cent of China's foreign-funded enterprises by the end of this year.
Labour unionists in Hong Kong suggested that the low rate of unionisation in foreign-funded enterprises in China was the result of strong resistance from employers who feared militant labour action would follow.
But China has not allowed free unions. Unions could only be formed under the auspices of the ACFTU, acting more as a mediator to keep away trouble than a rights champion, the unionists argued.
The Ministry of Labour is drafting a new regulation on employment in foreign-owned enterprises, expected to be promulgated later this year.
Meanwhile, the coastal Shangdong province has had its own set of regulations on employment management in foreign investments recently approved by the provincial people's congress.
According to the semi-official Hong Kong China News Agency (CNA) yesterday, the new regulations would protect the rights of employees as well as employers. Statistics show there were 14,860 foreign-owned enterprises employing more than one million workers in Shangdong at the end of last June.
CNA said the number of labour disputes had soared in these enterprises.