Stronger bargaining voice for Beijing's workers

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More than 80 percent of the Beijing's unionized enterprises will establish collective wage bargaining systems by 2013.

The Beijing Municipal Federation of Trade Unions has released a three-year plan that aims to boost the implementation of collective bargaining in the next two years.

The plan says collective bargaining will initially be promoted in five types of enterprises in the city: companies that earn high profits but which have been slow to increase wages; companies that pay their staff members just above the minimum wage; and companies that have many disputes with employees over wages.

"Promoting collective bargaining has never been easy," said Huang Wei, director of the labor rights department of the federation.

He said one of the main difficulties was employers who still think they have the ultimate decision-making power over workers' wages and that increasing labor costs will decrease profits.

But he said another obstacle lies in trade unions themselves.

Huang was speaking at a consultative conference to promote the system, where four trade unions were set up as role models.

"We hope other trade unions can learn from the successful experiences and intensify their sense of responsibility to speak on behalf of employees," Huang said.

He said the federation intends to popularize collective bargaining by introducing a tripartite mechanism to special categories and a wage standard for certain groups of workers.

The special categories include nursing, housekeeping, security and sanitation; and Huang said the special groups of people will be model employees and disadvantaged groups such as migrant workers.

"Industrial unions need to set up guides for the standard wage, labor quota and wage increases for these industries and these groups of people," Huang said.

Collective bargaining is a process of negotiation between workers and managers to determine wages and conditions. During the bargaining process, workers are typically represented by a trade union that negotiates with employers.

Currently, collective bargaining systems operate in more than 70 percent of unionized enterprises in the capital. The federation hopes the percentage will rise to 80 by 2013.

Figures from the Beijing statistic information bureau showed that in 2008 there were 19,315 trade unions in Beijing enterprises, covering 3.72 million employees.

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