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Beijing Municipal Congress Debates Trade Unions' Role
Beijing may highlight the role of trade unions in protecting workers' rights and interests if the municipal People's Congress, the city's top legislative body, endorses a new regulation on unions.

The draft is being debated during the 35th session of the Standing Committee of the 11th Beijing Municipal People's Congress, which began yesterday and ends on Thursday.

Zhang Zhijian, vice-director of the congress legal committee, said: "Over a long period of time, many workers have regarded trade unions as institutes only to distribute some household goods, such as toothpaste and shampoo, and organize some entertainment activities.

"As labor-management relations become more complicated and diverse with more non-State-owned enterprises and joint ventures established, trade unions need to keep blazing new trails and coming up with new ideas to act as a bridge between the workers and the government or the company boards," said Zhang.

Trade unions should represent workers' interests and should fight against any enterprise that violates workers' rights by reneging on salaries, arbitrarily extending working hours or disregarding workers' safety, the draft law stipulates.

Trade unions should organize events such as workers' conferences through which workers can participate directly in an enterprise's decision-making and air their opinions.

If an enterprise has not yet created a trade union six months after its establishment, the higher-level trade union body should instruct the workers at the company to set up their own trade union, the draft says.

The draft also demands that union chairmen or chairwomen should be selected from among the ordinary workers rather than from company bosses or their relatives.

Congress deputy Li Xiaojuan said: "Trade unions should assume the responsibility of speaking for the workers and seeking fair solutions for them."

(China Daily July 16, 2002)

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