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|Monday, August 27, 2001, updated at 21:15(GMT+8)|
China Beefs up Role of Trade Unions for Workers in Private FirmsTo prevent the ever increasing number of workers in non-public sectors from being bullied by their employers, China is now taking steps to revise its Trade Unions Law to strengthen the role of trade unions for the sake of workers' rights.
A draft of amendments to the Trade Unions Law, promulgated in 1950 and revised in 1992, was tabled with the top legislature, which began its bi-monthly session Monday.
"As the structure of China's economy has transformed and the non-public owned economic sector boomed in the past decade, economic relations and labor relations have undergone tremendous changes," Zhang Chunsheng, deputy director of the Legislative Affairs Commission of the NPC Standing Committee, told the meeting Monday.
"The work of trade unions is faced with some new and urgent issues that need to be addressed, and the Trade Unions Law must be revised accordingly to better protect the rights of workers, and maintain social stability while promoting reform and economic development," he said.
The draft amendments make it mandatory for enterprises and other organizations with 25 employees or more to set up a trade union; and those with less than 25 employees may choose to set up a trade union of their own, or cooperate with another company to establish one.
To counter the ever increasing practices of neglect of workers' safety, poor work conditions, prolonged work hours and other serious infringements of workers' rights, the draft amendments empower trade unions the right "to make representations with" related employers and pursue changes.
"If they fail to produce satisfactory results, trade unions can appeal to the government at or above the county level for rectification," Zhang explained.
"Neglecting of workers' safety and rights infringements has led to serious accidents and mass actions in some areas, which adversely affected the social stability," Zhang added.
He also pointed out that some foreign-funded enterprises, private companies and township enterprises have been found reluctant to set up trade unions for their employees, and many workers in private companies even have no idea of what a trade union is.
To address this problem, Zhang said that the draft amendments provide that trade unions at higher levels may send people to help set up trade unions and provide guidance at the grassroots level, free from being stymied by any organization or individual.
Trade union leaders are usually at odds with their bosses. To prevent employers from taking revenge against the union leaders, the draft amendments state that their labor contracts with the company shall not be annulled during the tenure of their office, if no serious personal demerits are found.
To further strengthen the role of trade unions, the draft amendments says that "the All-China Federations of Trade Unions and its organizations represent the rights and interests of workers and protect their rights and interests in line with the law."
"Trade unions conduct their work independently according to the Charter of the Trade Unions," the law draft says.
Employers are obligated to allocate two percent of the total amount of wages of the company to their trade unions, according to the draft law, noting that if they fail, trade unions may seek intervention from the court to enforce this decree.
Violations of the above-mentioned changes are punishable by compensation, mandatory correction, fines or criminal penalty if a crime is committed.
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