China sees sharp rise in number of unionists

Membership of trade unions rose sharply from 1997 to 2002, thanks to government efforts to set up more grassroots unions to protect the rights of factory employees, according to the All-China Federation of Trade Unions.

At the end of 2002, the number of union members had reached a record 134 million, compared with 91.31 million in 1997, and the number of grassroots union organizations stood at 1,713,000, compared with 510,000 five years before.

Private and foreign-funded companies, where workers are more vulnerable to rights abuses, have been urged to establish trade unions.

As the 14th National Congress of the federation approaches, public concern about the protection of the rights of factory workers has grown.

Thirty-six delegations comprising 1,698 representatives, 252 special delegates and 23 non-voting members are arriving in the national capital to attend the congress, which is to open Monday and runs till Friday.

Some delegates have called for more attention to the rights of female workers, due to the fact that they are more likely to lose their jobs, more vulnerable to sexual harassment, and more frequently falling victim to gender discrimination.

The forthcoming meeting is expected to discuss amendments to the federation's constitution in an effort to better protect the rights of labors.

The congress is the result of 10 months of intensive preparations, said Zhang Junjiu vice-president and the first secretary of the secretariat of the federation. Zhang called it a major event in the history of China's workers movement.

People's Daily Online ---