Register on site Sign in

Workers and government should stand together on wages   2011-03-30 15:57:00

Ordinary workers' wages have not kept up with China's rapid growth. But recently, the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) has begun heavily promoting collective bargaining. In January this year, ACFTU issued three guidance documents, which propose that 80 percent of the enterprises with trade union organizations should set up a system of collective bargaining by the end of 2013.

According to statistics from the ACFTU, by September 2010, over 1.1 million enterprises had signed collective contracts for wages. 

The number of enterprises dealing with collective bargaining has grown by 10 percent or more for four years in a row.  But although collective bargaining has made headway, there are still some problems.

To begin with, collective bargaining is often misunderstood. Some local governments one-sidedly think that collective bargaining will weaken their labor cost advantage and influence the investment environment, so they do not give sufficient support to the practice. 

Some business owners hold that wages are up to employers and believe they have no obligation to participate in collective bargaining, so they are neither active nor cooperative in such programs.

There are many staff who are unaware of their right to collective bargaining  and they doubt whether business owners would bargain with them equally.

These misunderstandings are a great source of resistance in implementing collective bargaining.

Although the existing law in China has clear rules on collective bargaining, it leaves too much space to specific operations. Rules that bring management into line have not yet been issued, so the penalties for businesses that refuse to participate in collective bargaining are not backed up by law. 

The qualities and abilities of trade union leaders also need to be improved, since some representatives lack experience in collective bargaining. Business representatives, especially those belonging to small industrial enterprises that operate below the county level, are often an obstacle to the work.

To legally push the enterprises to carry out collective bargaining for wages and establish a cooperative relationship between management and labor, the ACFTU intends, first of all, to strengthen its organizational leadership.

The ACFTU will establish special groups to focus on this issue and make it a highlight of its leadership.

It will also focus on non-State-owned enterprises, and especially on collective bargaining in industries that have many small- and medium-sized enterprises and are often labor-intensive.


It will push the top 500 enterprises in China to establish collective bargaining, and further drive to expand the coverage and quality of collective bargaining.

The ACFTU and local trade unions will train the bargaining representatives by turns, improve their bargaining abilities and professional skills and create favorable conditions for enterprises to carry out collective bargaining.

The ACFTU will also improve its local organizations, participate in making  up labor standards to provide necessary support for collective bargaining, as well as promoting collective bargaining via the media.

In addition, the AFCTU will push for legislation on issues such as wages regulation, strengthen the law on collective bargaining for wages, and press the government to intensify control over wage distribution.

The ACFTU is seeking adjustments in the minimum wage standard, stronger supervision over law enforcement, and to create a legal policy environment for collective bargaining which strengthens both China's workers and businesses.


The author is vice-chairperson of All-China Federation of Trade Unions.

source : Global Times     editor:: Shirley
  Related Reading