The congress of workers is the basic form of democratic management of state-owned enterprises, and an important institution for workers to directly participate in the management of enterprises. China's Constitution provides that "State-owned enterprises practice democratic management through congresses of workers and staff and in other ways in accordance with the law." As stipulated by the Regulations for the Workers' Congresses in Industrial Enterprises Owned by the Whole People promulgated by the State Council in September 1986, "The workers' congress is a fundamental institution for democratic management in enterprises," and "The trade union committee is the working organ of the workers' congress in an enterprise, and it is responsible for the day-to-day work of the workers' congress." The workers' congress as a self-governance organization of workers is an institution for workers to exercise their power of democratic management.
A workers' congress comprises representatives of workers directly elected by teams, groups or workshop sections. They are from among blue-collar workers, technical personnel, managerial staff, leading cadres and other members of an enterprise, and they are grouped into delegations. The workers' congress meets at least once in half a year, and interim meetings may be convened to deal with major issues that have emerged. The congress has five categories of functions and powers: (1) Hear and review reports on the enterprise's business operation policy, long-term plan, annual plan, plan for capital construction, plan for major technological transformation, plan for training of workers, plan for the distribution and use of
retained funds, and plan for implementing the contract responsibility or leasing system in business operation. The congress offers its views and suggestions on such reports. The congress also examines any major plan put forward by the director of the enterprise concerning its development, and makes a resolution on it; (2) Examine and decide to approve or negate plans for adjustments in wages, distribution of bonuses, work safety protection measures, awards and punishments, and other important rules and regulations. The congress examines major plans put forward by the director that directly concern the interests of workers, and adopts resolutions to approve or negate the plans. Any plan negated by the congress must be revised on the basis of the congress's opinions, and be submitted again to the congress for deliberation. When a plan is approved, it will be publicized and implemented; (3) Examine plans for the use of welfare funds for workers, distribution of housing, and other major issues concerning the welfare of workers; (4) Evaluate and supervise leading cadres at all levels in the enterprise, and propose relevant awards, penalties, promotions, demotions and removals; (5) Nominate or elect the director of the enterprise. In accordance with the Enterprises Law, the director of an enterprise is either appointed by the competent government department or elected by the workers' congress with the election result reported to the competent government department for approval. For the workers' congress to elect the director, capable cadres that enjoy popular support are able to take leading positions, and workers also exercise their rights as masters of the enterprise.
When the workers' congress is not in session, the trade union committee of enterprise as the working organ of the congress conducts the day-to-day work of the congress, so as to ensure the regular implementation of democratic management. According to relevant statutes, a trade union committee exercises the following functions and powers: (1) Organize the election of workers' representatives; (2) Propose the agenda for the workers' congress, and prepare for and organize the congress meetings; (3) Preside over joint meetings of the heads of delegations (groups) and special groups (special committees); (4) Organize special groups (special committees) to carry out investigations, make proposals to the workers' congress, inspect and supervise the implementation of resolutions adopted by the congress, and mobilize workers in the implementation of the resolutions; (5) Educate the workers in democratic management and organize the workers' representatives to study relevant policies and management knowledge so as to raise their quality; (6) Accept and handle complaints and suggestions from the workers' representatives, and safeguard their legitimate rights and interests; and (7) Conduct other work pertaining to democratic management of the enterprise.
The system of workers' congresses was installed when the director responsibility system was introduced in Chinese enterprises. As modern enterprises are engaged in socialized production, the workers' congress cannot and should not take the place of the director and his management team to make decisions on and direct business operation. The congress enables workers to directly participate in management of social affairs as masters, it is an institution for workers to exercise democratic management, but it is not the highest decision-making organ of an enterprise. Practices have proved that the combination of the workers' congress and the director responsibility system is a good way to integrate centralized leadership and democratic management in enterprise management. The director responsibility system is based on democratic management of the enterprise. The director should regularly report his work to the workers' congress, listen to its opinions and accept its supervision, while the workers' congress should support the director in exercising his functions and powers according to law.