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Trade Unions Put Workers' Rights First

The central government is preparing to develop a regular communications platform with trade unions in an effort to better safeguard the interests of workers.

Vice-Chairman of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) Zhang Junjiu yesterday said the State Council, China's cabinet, is scheduled to invite unionists to voice suggestions next week regarding the effort.

"This meeting will become a regular practice," Zhang told reporters at yesterday's Beijing news conference.

He said the cabinet has planned to hear unionists' views on China's employment situation, workplace safety and workers' legal rights.

A similar open level of communication has already been organized between most provincial governments and union federations, Zhang said.

"The practice has proved to be effective in solving many problems facing workers," said Zhang.

At yesterday's press conference, Zhang also said that the 14th national congress of trade unions is scheduled to take place September 22 through 26.

Journalists from home and abroad are being invited to cover the five-day event.

Zhang said his federation has made many achievements since 1998, when the 13th congress was held.

The latest statistics indicate that China has established over 1.65 million trade unions at grass-roots levels, more than ever before, with a record 130 million members.

Zhang said that trade unions play an important role in promoting democratic management inside enterprises and helping safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of employees.

More than 327,000 enterprises across the country have encouraged a system of workers' conferences, he said.

According to Zhang, trade unions have also assisted nearly 3 million laid-off workers find new jobs in the past five years, and launched training courses to help improve job skills of 3.19 million such workers.

"Our next step is to take migrant workers and place them under the umbrella of ACFTU," said an ACFTU official surnamed Sun.

(China Daily September 12, 2003)

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