MORE than half of China's foreign-funded firms have set up trade unions to 'safeguard the interests of the working class'. Of 80,800 foreign-invested ventures, about 46,000, or 57 per cent, have organised unions, said the vice-chairman of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions, Yang Xingfu . More than 4.53 million workers, or 75 per cent of those employed by foreigners, are said to have benefited. But Mr Yang admitted that few unions had signed collective contracts to protect workers' legal rights, and to co-ordinate labour relations as required by the authorities. According to the Labour Law which became effective early last year, unions should sign contracts with employers on behalf of workers, listing payments, work hours, breaks and holidays, safety and health measures, insurance and welfare. Mr Yang revealed that at least a third of the unions were expected to finish the signing of such agreements this year. The groups were indispensable in settling disputes, and in improving labour relations and the working environment, he said. But there have been complaints that owing to a lack of legal protection, salaries have been withheld and contracts terminated.