The Chinese trade unions are mass organizations formed by the Chinese working class on a voluntary basis. The Trade Union Law of the People's Republic of China and the Constitution of the Chinese Trade Unions stipulate that union membership is open to all manual and mental workers in enterprises, institutions and government departments within the territory of the People's Republic of China who rely on wages or salaries as their main source of income, irrespective of their nationality, race, sex, occupation, religious belief or educational background as long as they accept the Constitution of the Chinese Trade Unions.
The Chinese trade unions take the country's Constitution as the fundamental criterion for their activities, carry out their work independently according to laws and the trade unions' constitution, and exercise their rights and undertake their obligations according to laws. The Trade Union Law of the People's Republic of China provides that protecting workers' legitimate rights and interests is the basic duty of the Chinese trade unions. The supreme organs of power of the Chinese trade unions are the national congress of the trade unions and the executive committee of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions it elects; the leading bodies of the trade unions at lower levels are the local trade union congresses and the trade union committees of trade union federations they elect; the All-China Federation of Trade Unions is established as the unified national organization.
The All-China Federation of Trade Unions was founded on May 1st, 1925. As a unified, united and powerful trade union organization, the ACFTU is the leading body of trade union federations at local level and industrial unions at national level. At present, there are 31 trade union federations at provincial level, 10 industrial unions at national level and two trade union federations for public employees of party departments directly under the Party Central Committee and public employees of government departments directly under the State Council. At present, the ACFTU has a total membership of 130 million.
The Chinese trade unions follow the principle in which industrial unions at local level accept the dual leadership of local trade union federations and industrial unions at higher levels. In other words, workers in one enterprise, institution or government department are formed into one grassroots trade union organization while workers in one industry or several similar industries can set up an industrial union at national or local level according to their needs.
The ACFTU actively seek exchanges and cooperation with trade unions and labor circles in the Hong Kong and Macao Special Administrative Regions and Taiwan region on the principle of non-affiliation, non-interference in each other's internal affairs and mutual respect.
The Chinese trade unions pursue the principle of independence and extensive contacts in international activities and are ready to transcend differences in ideology and international affiliations in order to develop relations with trade union organizations of all countries on the basis of independence, equality, mutual respect and non-interference in each other's internal affairs. So far, the Chinese trade unions have established relations with trade unions in more than 140 countries and regions as well as a number of international trade union organizations.
Since they were established, the Chinese trade unions have, under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, worked hard to safeguard workers' economic, political and cultural rights, stimulate workers' enthusiasm and push ahead with China's revolution, construction and reform. The Chinese trade unions enjoy the following advantages:
1. High Political Status
The Chinese working class is the ruling class of the country. As mass organizations of the working class, the Chinese trade unions are a bridge between the broad masses of workers and the Chinese Communist Party and an important social pillar of state power. They play an important role in the country's political, economic and social life. Leaders of many local trade unions assume important positions on Party committees and in the people's congresses and political consultative conferences at local levels, which create favorable conditions for trade unions to participate in politics and protect workers' legitimate rights and interests.
2. Legal and Policy Guarantee
The Trade Union Law was among the first three important laws to be promulgated shortly after New China was founded in 1950. In October 2001, the Trade Union Law was again revised, thus providing a more powerful legal guarantee for trade unions to fulfill their protective functions.
3. United and Sound Organizational Structure
Trade union organizations have been set up at national, municipal, county, township, neighborhood and grassroots levels across the country.
4. Large Membership and High Unionization Rate
5. Adequate Funding
China's laws lay down that enterprises, institutions and government departments where trade unions are established must contribute 2 percent of the monthly payroll of their workforce to trade union funds. The constant developing worker welfare businesses also provide financial support for union activities.
Since China opened its door to the outside and decided to establish a socialist market economy, the country has undergone profound and complex changes in economic and labor relations, with various forms of ownership, employment, income distribution as well as social strata and interest becoming increasingly diversified. Therefore participating in coordinating labor relations and protecting workers' legitimate rights and interests calls for the immediate attention of trade unions. This work is becoming ever more arduous and urgent for the trade unions with the country's on-going reform, The 2nd Session of the 12th ACFTU Executive Committee, which was held in December 1994, seized the opportunity of carrying out the Labor Law and developed a clear vision for the trade union movement during the new period, taking Deng Xiaoping's Theory and the basic line of the Party as its guiding principle. The basic tasks the meeting mapped out for the trade unions include: (l) unswervingly promoting the implementation of the Party's principle of relying whole-heartedly on the working class, placing emphasis on the protective functions of trade unions and taking the fulfillment of such functions as a major means of serving the overall situation of the work of the Party and the government; (2) coordinating labor relations in accordance with the Trade Union Law and the Labor Law and doing practical things for workers living in poverty; (3) putting into practice the theory of "Three Representatives" in real earnest according to the nature and characteristics of trade unions, carrying out work independently and creatively in accordance with law and the Constitution of the Chinese Trade Unions, organizing as many workers as possible into trade unions, protecting workers' enthusiasm and creativeness and channeling their enthusiasm and creativeness into fulfilling the tasks set by the Party and the government.
Under the guidance of this principle, the Chinese trade unions have over the past five years concentrated their efforts on:
1. Organizing the Workforce According to Laws
To organize as many workers as possible into trade unions and to protect workers' right to join and form trade unions, the Chinese trade unions at all levels have accelerated the pace of unionization, adhering to the principle that where there are workers, there should be trade unions, and have made headways in this respect. In addition, the Chinese trade unions have done their utmost to organize workers in newly built enterprises and have reorganized, rebuilt and consolidated trade union organizations in state-owned and collectively-run shareholding companies to prevent the loss of membership. Meanwhile, the Chinese trade unions pay special attention to bringing into full play the role of newly formed trade unions. By the end of June 2002, there were 1.658 million grassroots trade unions around the country with a total membership of 130 million, an increase of 225 percent and 43 percent respectively as against 510,000 grassroots trade unions and 91 million members five years before. Of this, 1.032 million unions were in newly built enterprises with 40 million members, a historical high. The Chinese trade unions have adjusted to changes in economic structure and ownership and tried to extend their presences into townships, neighborhoods, communities, special economic zones, industrial estates and administrative villages.
2. Participating in the Legislative Process
The ACFTU and trade unions at all levels participate in the legislative process so as to represent and safeguard workers' interests. Over the past five years, the trade unions have participated in formulating 1,264 local laws and policies concerning workers' immediate interests. In addition, a tripartite coordination mechanism has been set up nationwide. At present, the State Tripartite Conference System of Labor Relations Coordination was set up in August 2001. So far, the system has been established in 30 (autonomous regions and municipalities) provinces. The trade union-government joint consultation system is gaining ground. Up to now, the system has been introduced in 17 (autonomous regions and municipalities) provinces and is extending to city and county levels. The trade unions have taken active part in the work of labor arbitration committees at all levels. By participating in drawing up various laws, the trade unions have effectively protected the overall legitimate rights and interests of the broad masses of workers.
3. Protecting Workers' Economic Interests
The Chinese trade unions at all levels have placed importance on establishing the equal consultation and collective contract system, implementing the Warmth Project and promoting employment for laid off' workers. Their efforts have paid off. At present, the equal consultation and collective contract system has been set up in 635,000 enterprises around the country, accounting for 48.7 percent of the unionized enterprises. More than 30,000 enterprises have conducted wage negotiations, The trade unions have done a lot to bring workers in desperate need through tough times. The Warmth Project was launched by the trade unions with the intention of helping workers with financial difficulties out of poverty. Now its scope has been extended to provide both financial assistance and legal protection for workers in difficult circumstances. The project is more institutionalized and socialized focused on relief centers for poor workers in large and medium-sized cities. Over the past five years, the trade unions at all levels have raised a total of 10.4 billion yuan for workers in need, visited nearly 500,000 deficit-ridden enterprises and 25.60 million struggling working class families; linked more than 800,000 Party and union leaders with nearly a million struggling families to help the latter get over their economic difficulties; more than 600 trade union organizations above city level across the country have set up hotlines for worker who want to seek help from them during New Year’s Day and the Spring Festival. The trade unions actively assist the Party and the government in solving the employment problems for laid off workers. While putting forward policy proposals to the Party and the government, the trade unions give full play to their own advantages and run various training programs to workers so that they can find employment easily. The trade unions have more than 6,000 training centers in China, which have trained a total of 3 million people, and 4,000 employment agencies, which have found jobs for more than 3 million workers. Besides, trade unions have created 650,000 jobs by opening markets for the unemployed or providing funding for them to go into business for themselves. All these measures have played an active role in freeing workers from worries, holding the workforce together and maintaining the country's political stability.
4. Protecting Workers' Political Rights As Masters of the Country
The Chinese trade unions at all levels actively build up the workers' congress system in state-owned enterprises and institutions. The trade unions insist that enterprises should bring transparency into their operations; workers be allowed to appraise the work of enterprise leadership; draft proposals for collective contracts be submitted to the workers' congress for examination and approval; entertainment expenses be subject to supervision by workers; enterprise leaderships be honest in performing their duties; implementation of collective contracts be reported to the workers' congress; workers of state-owned stock companies be represented on the board of directors and the board of supervisors. Those efforts have strengthened the workers' congress system and improved the work efficiency of the workers' congresses. Meanwhile, the Chinese trade unions have urged non-public enterprises and institutions to find out a form of worker democratic management appropriate for their own conditions and have done everything possible to ensure the basic rights of workers enshrined in the law such as the right to know, the right to consult and the right to supervise. At present, the workers' congress system has been established in 327,000 enterprises and the number of enterprises that have initiated the corporate transparency system has reached 251,000. These measures have boost grassroots democracy, aroused workers' initiative as masters of their own country and given fresh impetus to the healthy development of enterprises and institutions.
5. Protecting Workers' Spiritual and Cultural Rights
The Chinese trade unions at all levels work in close collaboration with Party and government organizations in raising workers' ideological moral, technical and educational levels. The trade unions earnestly carry out political and ideological education among workers, educate workers to have the cardinal principles in mind and take the overall situation into account, look at the changes in interest in their proper perspective and actively throw themselves into reform and construction. The trade unions have stepped up efforts to set up a professional ethics which encourages workers to work hard and gives them a sense of uplift. Meanwhile, they spare no efforts to protect and guarantee their right to receive job training, urge governments at all levels to incorporate vocational training into the country's economic and social development programs, urge enterprises and institutions to build a sound vocational training system and sharpen workers' competitive edge in the job market. The trade unions set up technical schools, cultural palaces and clubs for workers to satisfy their educational and cultural needs. At present, the Chinese trade unions have 2,400 training schools, with a student body of 543,000. Besides, the trade unions have built 39,000 cultural palaces and clubs, 20,000 libraries and 52,000 gyms for workers. To build up workers' health and add color to their lives, the trade unions take advantage of those facilities to develop recreational and sports activities. All this is aimed at building up a contingent of workers with lofty ideals, moral integrity, education and discipline and to promote socialist material and cultural progress.
6. Enlisting Workers' Initiative in Socialist Modernization Drive
The Chinese trade unions stimulate and protect workers' initiative and creativeness and direct their initiative and creativeness toward pushing the socialist modernization drive forward. To this end, the trade unions commend model workers and advanced collectives, and encourage workers to follow their example and do their work to the best of their ability. In addition, the trade union foster emulations among workers and encourage them to put forward rationalization proposals, make technical innovations and combine their efforts to over technical problems at work. Over the past five years, 84 million workers have participated in labor emulations, brought forward 44.14 million rationalization proposals, tackled 880,000 technical difficulties and popularized 320,000 new technologies. Their efforts have provided a great stimulus to the country's economy.
The Chinese trade unions have made inspiring progress in their international work. Over the past five years, the Chinese trade union have strengthened substantive exchanges with trade unions of other countries and international trade union organizations, playing their due role in people-to-people diplomacy. At the annual international labor conference this year, the ACFTU was elected deputy worker member of the ILO Governing Body. The Chinese trade unions' influence is growing, their international status is rising and their role increasing.
The 16th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party has further pointed the direction of Chinese trade union movement in the new century. The Chinese trade unions will act in accordance with the requirements Comrade Jiang Zemin has raised in his theory of "Three Representatives" and the spirit of the 16th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, protect, arouse and give full play to workers initiative and creativeness, and guide the broad masses of workers to play a leading role in developing the socialist market economy, socialist democracy and socialist culture, promoting socialist material, political and cultural progress and rejuvenating the Chinese nation.
(China.org.cn November 12, 2002)