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The Chinese Trade Union’s Big Rush to Set Up Unions in Fortune 500 Companies

Aug 20, 2008

Two years after the All China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) accomplished a breakthrough to set up workplace unions in Wal-Mart stores, on 11 June this year, after holding a meeting in Beijing, it announced that it would immediately launch a campaign to set up unions in at least 80 percent of the Fortune 500 company headquarters and branches. Up until now only some 50 percent of these companies have unions. This means that, including unions in these company’s branches, more than 10,000 workplaces have to have new unions. This ‘100-day focused action’ as the ACFTU calls it, will be in high gear until the end of September. The announcement was made with a sense of urgency and determination. Local unions were also instructed to take legal action against any companies that refuse to accept having a union.

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Systematic government theft of migrant workers’ retirement pensions

Jul 13, 2008

By law, Chinese employers are required to contribute to a government-administered retirement pension scheme for all employees. In theory, it sounds like this provides for some kind of security for migrant workers in their old age. But there is a catch. Migrant workers are highly mobile. In Guangdong province, for example, migrant workers only stay for an average of four to six years (People’s Daily, 8 January 2008) and in that time they may well move between several different cities. But when migrant workers leave their city of work, they cannot transfer their pension account either to their new place of work, or to their home town. Generally all they can do is cash in (tuibao) their own contribution. Their employer’s contribution – which is higher than the employee’s – stays with the local government. (Precise contributions differ by place. In Nanjing, for example, employees contribute 8 per cent of their salary, and employers contribute 14 per cent). This is essentially theft of migrant workers’ social security, and this aspect of China’s social security system is in need of urgent reform. No wonder local governments are so keen to enforce the social security regulation on enterprises that have are mainly staffed by migrant workers, because they gain an enormous amount from migrant workers’ social security contribution. That also explains why such factories are reluctant to take out insurance for their migrant workers because they knew that this large sum of money will not go back to the workers, but rather to the local governments.

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The Emergence of Real Trade Unionism in Wal-Mart Stores

May 04, 2008

The trade unions in Chinese Wal-Mart stores are often dismissed as hollow shells set up by the All China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) without workers’ involvement. But through monitoring Chinese media and online blog discussions among Chinese Wal-Mart employees, CLNT has found workers who take an active interest in their store union, and at least in one case, of an elected rank and file trade union chair using the trade union platform to actively defend workers’ interests. While most – if not all – of the trade union branches are heavily dominated by Wal-Mart management or local governments, some workers have seized this union-building exercise and try to turn the unions into a body that they identify as their own to protect and to use in their struggle against Wal-Mart management.

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Shunda Factory’s Rigged Trade Union Election

Mar 19, 2008

CLNT has just secured a report from a production line worker, Worker Ye (a pseudonym) at the Shunda factory which was the subject of CLNT’s August 2007 posting, “Democratic Trade Union Election in Reebok Supplier Factory: Five Year Update”. Ye reports that the Shunda union re-election took place in October 2007 and that it was rigged. Candidates running for the union committee were overwhelmingly supervisors and managers, and the positions of trade union chair, deputy chair and the union office administrator (the only three full-time trade union positions) were not opened for contested re-election. The three officials therefore are able to continue to sit on the trade union committee and do nothing for the workers.

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Migrant Workers and the Chronic Problem of Owed Wages

Feb 20, 2008

Chinese New Year has just passed. Before New Year millions of migrant workers hope to take their income and return to their hometown for reunions with their families after one year’s hard work. However, many of them have had to struggle for unpaid wages before they go home. In this issue, CLNT has chosen three articles focused on the chronic social problem of owed wages in China.

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