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Call to multinationals to allow trade unions renewed
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08:19, December 26, 2008

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The All China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) has renewed its call to multinational corporations (MNCs) to allow trade unions to be formed in their plants and outlets in the country.

"The formation of trade unions (TUs) in companies is part of the law as long as they operate in China irrespective of whether they are foreign or domestic," Guo Wencai, an ACFTU official, said on Wednesday.

Some MNCs have been practicing "double standards" on TU formation, he said, and stressed that some big names such as software giant Microsoft, financial powerhouse Morgan Stanley and Japanese conglomerate Marubeni are delaying the process.

Guo said 17 percent of the Fortune 500 companies that had set up their regional headquarters in the country had not allowed the formation of TUs till October.

A total of 483 of the Fortune 500 companies are operating in the country, and 375 of them have set up their regional headquarters here.

"They have allowed TUs to be formed in their home countries but refuse to do so in China, using various excuses," Guo said. This is "double standards".

Marubeni and Microsoft refused to respond to Guo's statement yesterday.

The renewed call to MNCs comes after global giants such as Lehman Brothers and General Motors have either collapsed or are struggling because of the economic downturn.

Many MNCs have stopped recruitments and some have cut jobs in China, though mass layoffs have not been reported.

"Given the situation, we strongly ask them to allow TUs to be formed" to protect the workers' rights, Guo said.

Chai Rong, a professor of law at Beijing Normal University said MNCs should allow TUs irrespective of whether the economy has a positive look. "It's a must under the law, not optional."

Worries that TUs could go against the managements should not be cited as an excuse because unions often act as a bridge between employers and employees, Chai said.

The first TU in an overseas company was formed in the 1980s. Among the well-known MNCs, US retail giant Walt-Mart took the lead, allowing a TU to be formed in its Quanzhou branch in Fujian province in 2006. But even that decision was taken after repeated calls by the ACFTU.

Source: China Daily

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