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First Union Lawyers to Take Office
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China's first group of Trade Union (TU) lawyers will take office this month to provide free legal advice and services to employees involved in industrial disputes.

The 669 lawyers will work as employees for TUs across the country according to the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) which released details of the initiative yesterday.

By the end of last year 11,059 legal specialists were employed by TUs but as unionists they were barred from practicing as lawyers under Chinese law.

"Without professional licenses TU legal personnel are restricted in providing legal assistance for workers," said Guo Jun, deputy director of the ACFTU legal affairs office on Wednesday.

Guo said many legal specialists left their TU posts simply because they were unable to practice.

He said TU lawyers received a monthly wage and were prohibited from charging fees, working for other legal organizations or without their TU's permission.

The number of TU legal aid offices reached 3,856 at the end of last year and they assisted in settling 16,657 labor disputes. 

But TU officials believe this figure is only a fraction of the actual number of disputes last year.

Pay and social security issues were the most common cause of disputes and the number of disputed redundancies was rising, according to the ACFTU.

(Xinhua News Agency May 11, 2006)

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