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Workers to Get Power to Negotiate, Union Says

The country's top trade union body said yesterday that by 2012, all companies in China will be expected to have established a system of collective negotiation and collective contracts.

Zhang Qiujian, a senior official with the All-China Federation of Trade Unions, said at a press meeting in Beijing that the federation was firmly committed to helping workers in all companies, including State-owned, private and foreign-owned, to fight for decent wages.

"According to the Labor Law and the Trade Union Law, trade unions have a duty to negotiate and sign collective contracts with enterprises on behalf of the workers or staff members," she said.

Zhang said the federation was particularly concerned with small private enterprises, many of which do not have trade unions or modern working systems.

She said it will urge the government to take measures to help set up a system of collective negotiation.

Zhang said the federation had also set a goal of covering more than 60 percent of workers with collective contracts by the end of next year.

At present, 49 percent of workers have collective contracts with their employers.

According to the federation, a total of 862,000 collective contracts were signed nationwide last year, involving 112.5 million workers. The figures were up 14.3 percent and 8.3 percent, respectively, on 2005.

Zhang Tianwen, vice-director of the federation's collective contracts department, said China's progress in signing such contracts had been recognized by experts from the International Labor Organization, such as Chang-Hee Lee and Elsa.

She said the government can help by advocating workers' rights and interests or setting minimum wage rates, but it cannot force companies to raise workers' wages.

Therefore it is very important that trade unions at all levels organize workers to negotiate with their bosses to safeguard their interests and rights, especially in the present situation where the supply of laborers exceeds demand.

She said workers should be allowed to negotiate with their employers on issues such as wages, working hours and insurance. It should not just come from the management.

She said experience had shown that collective negotiation usually resulted in wages being increased and tension between management and workers being eased.

According to figures from the federation, China has 1.17 million grassroots trade unions and 151 million members.

(China Daily May 25, 2007)

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