World's leading retailer Wal-Mart saw its first trade union in China established on Saturday morning in Quanzhou, southeastern Fujian Province.
The move came after more than two years' efforts by the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) to push the giant to set up labor unions in its 59 outlets around the country.
Twenty five employees of a Wal-Mart shop in Jinjiang elected seven members of their trade union committee in a meeting room of the local trade unions federation, and Ke Yunlong, 29, was elected chairman.
Thirty Wal-Mart employees had applied to the Quanzhou City Federation of Trade Unions for the establishment of their own labor union.
Fu Furong, deputy chairman of the Quanzhou City Federation of Trade Unions, said that to join the trade union was a voluntary choice of these employees, and the Federation respected their rights and decision.
According to China's trade union law, enterprises or institutions with 25 employees and above should establish trade unions.
Xu Deming, vice president of the ACFTU, said that trade unions, organized on employees' own will, can safeguard the economic, political and cultural rights of workers.
Trade unions can also help "lubricate" the relationship between employees and employers, Xu said.
The ACFTU has a membership of 150 million and has 1.174 million branches. In 2006, the union plans to install more than 120,000 branches across the country, with more than 13 million new members.
One of the major tasks of the ACFTU in 2006 is to push foreign-funded or transnational companies to unionize, said Xu.
Up to date, China has more than 100,000 overseas companies, plus those from Taiwan, Hongkong and Macao, and 39,000 have built labor unions, no more than three tenths.
Wal-Mart China, employing over 23,000 people, released a statement last November, saying "should associates request the formation of a union, Wal-Mart China would respect their wishes and honor its obligation under China's trade union law."
The statement also pledges to "continue to work closely with our associates and appropriate government authorities to ensure full compliance with China's trade union law."
According to China's trade union law, all employees have the right to join the ACFTU, and anyone who applied for the setting up of a union should be approved by the company.