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Plan to Unionize 60% of Foreign Companies
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The top Trade Union (TU) organization in China proposes to unionize 60 percent of foreign companies by the end of this year, a senior TU official said yesterday.

Sun Chunlan, vice chairwoman of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions, set the goal for local TU leaders at a two-day conference which ended in Beijing yesterday.

She urged local TU leaders to approach companies and their employees to set up more TUs and suggested a target of having 80 percent of foreign companies in China unionized by the end of 2007.

She said industrial bases and high-tech industrial development zones should be targeted and the conditions of these establishments would need to be investigated before TUs could be established. According to official figures China has poor TU membership in foreign companies.

At the end of 2004 China was home to about 78,000 foreign companies and 74,000 businesses financed from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan but respectively only 23 and 20 percent of these had TU representation.

"The development of TUs has been slow," Sun observed.

It's estimated there are about 20 million employees in these companies. "Some workers have long hours in labor intensive positions but still receive low pay and lack protection," Sun said.

There was a need for TUs to be involved with more enterprises as they provided a better way to resolve any conflicts between employers and workers, she observed.

She also noted that TUs didn't exist to place restrictions on companies but were there to help develop healthy work practices.

"No other organizations, such as corporate welfare associations, could replace Chinese TUs," she added.

Jin Jun, a lawyer with Siway & Seaway in east China's Jiangsu Province, whose clients range from multi-nationals to small privately-owned businesses, said foreign investors were concerned that TUs might threaten their management structures as relations between employers and TUs were often regarded a being disruptive.

(China Daily March 31, 2006)

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