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610,000 Overseas Companies in China Have Trade Unions

The All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) Tuesday said 610,000 overseas companies, including those with investment from Hong Kong and Macao, have established trade unions in China by the end of September in 2006.
The number of union members in overseas companies reached 11,797,000, said Li Bingsheng, director of the research department with ACFTU, on a press conference held in Beijing.
The ACFTU figures indicate 54.5 percent of the overseas companies were provided with trade unions while 55.5 percent of their employees had joined the unions.
The formation of trade unions in the Wal-Mart outlets in China last year was a major breakthrough in expanding trade unions for better protection of workers' rights in overseas companies, said Li.
The world's retail giant Wal-Mart has traditionally not allowed trade unions in its outlets, for which it has been widely criticized by human rights groups and labor organizations.
With mounting pressure from the ACFTU and the public, Wal-Mart pledged in August last year to help China's union authority establish branches in all its stores in China and strictly perform the duties written in China's Law on Trade Unions.
Trade unions have been set up in the headquarter and all of the outlets of Wal-Mart in China, according to Li.
Earlier reports said China's top trade union official and lawmaker Wang Zhaoguo had proposed an amendment to the Trade Union Law to make it compulsory for foreign-funded companies to unionize, aimed at countering obstinate refusals by foreign companies, including Wal-Mart, to recognize trade unions for employees in China.
The existing law says enterprises or institutions with 25 employees and above should establish trade unions, and employees have the right to join the ACFTU, but it fails to specify the duty of companies in assisting such an installation.
The federation, led by the Communist Party of China (CPC) and backed by the government, said the country has a total of 1,324,000 trade unions with a membership of 170 million people, including 40,978,000 migrant workers from rural areas, by the end of September 2006.

(Xinhua News Agency May 16, 2007)

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