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Two in Three Foreign Firms' Workers Not Unionized
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A senior All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) official said in yesterday's People's Daily that workers in less than one in three foreign-invested ventures are unionized.

"Some enterprises, Wal-Mart being representative, turn a blind eye to China's Trade Union Law and set very negative examples for the country's unionizing effort," said Guo Wencai, ACFTU organization department director.

Under pressure from the ACFTU, Wal-Mart Stores, the world's biggest retailer infamous for blocking the establishment of unions worldwide, announced last November 23 that it would permit union branches in its Chinese stores if employees requested it.

The ACFTU responded two days later, saying that it was ready to assist the establishment of unions for Wal-Mart employees, of whom there are around 20,000 in more than 40 outlets in 18 Chinese cities.

There have been no reports of any unions in Wal-Mart branches being set up since then.

Guo said the majority of the foreign enterprises respect the country's labor laws and support employees joining trade unions. However, employees at only about 160,000 of the 480,000 foreign firms in China have so far been unionized.

The ACFTU official urged workers in foreign companies to set up unions to harmonize labor relationships, adding, "After being unionized, better-protected employees will be motivated to work for healthy business development."

Guo accused some local governments of acting as "protection umbrellas" for foreign enterprises that discourage workers from unionizing, with some local officials more interested in how much capital can be attracted from overseas.

The ACFTU plans to encourage unionization by raising awareness of its benefits amongst workers. Yang Honglin, another ACFTU official, said trade unions should assume responsibility for speaking out on behalf of workers and seek the best solutions to their problems.

(China Daily April 29, 2005)

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