Workers' rights in China draw attention at unions' congress

Delegates to the ongoing 14th National Congress of Chinese Trade Unions have called for greater attention to the protection of the rights of workers.

The delegates said many employees had been laid off when state-owned companies were trying to increase efficiency by cutting their work forces, resulting financial difficulties for those who lost their jobs.

Although the central government has issued a series of policies to protect the interests of the layoffs, some enterprises had failed to carry out the policies, they said. The situation was worse in cities where state-owned factories were dominant.

In Anshan, a largest steel production base in Liaoning Province, northeast China, some 140,000 state factory employees have so far lost their jobs in the city's efforts to restructure the difficult state sector. The city has more than one million people working for state-owned companies.

Employees in these companies are often owed unpaid wages. Local trade unions are trying hard to help them.

Since 2001, the municipal federation of trade unions in Anshan has helped factory workers recover more than 900 million yuan (110million US dollars) in unpaid salaries from their employers.

"Labor disputes caused by state enterprise reform have been the main job for trade unions," said Wu Shenyao, president of the municipal federation of trade unions of Shanghai.

In 2002, 26 percent of disputes involved difficult relations between workers and employers. Trade unions have tried hard to persuade the factories to abide by law and protect the interests of employees.

"Most of the disputes were settled after unions were involved," Shen noted.



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