A Chinese Labour Activist’s Reflection on the Recent Development of Labour Relations in China
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This issue of China Labor News Translations (CLNT) brings the translation of an article written by a Chinese labour activist about the recent development of labour relations in China, in particular on strike, collective bargaining and unions. The labour activist has been a worker for decades in northern China. In recent years, he has provided legal advice and represented workers in legal cases in China. The article was written last year shortly after attending a semi-academic conference on collective bargaining. It summarised and elaborated on his remarks and observation at the conference, which he believes is different from the majority of opinions voiced during the conference.
The context of this and many similar academic and semi-academic conferences in the past couple of years is the much discussed Honda strikes in 2010 and the ensuing high-profile campaign of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU). There was much optimism after the strikes at Honda plants were settled not by violence but – after the intervention of government – by collective negotiation between management and worker representatives under the auspices of the union. It was soon followed by an ambitious three-year plan by the ACFTU to achieve extensive union coverage and to widely set up the mechanism of collective bargaining.
Early this year, ACFTU’s official news paper, Workers’ Daily, published a triumphant article lauding the ‘historically unprecedented’ success of the ACFTU campaign. While the figures presented by the ACFTU are impressive, they are the result of local unions fulfilling quotas imposed by higher level union bureaucracy. Exactly two years after the Honda strikes were settled by collective bargaining, there is no evidence that the ACFTU campaign has facilitated the conditions for workers’ collective bargaining with their employers. Without the support of either the unions or government, workers continue to resort to wildcat strikes to bring employers to the bargaining table.
By bringing this article to the readers of CLNT, we hope to offer a much needed critical perspective from a labour activist who has been closely observing the recent development of labour relations in China.
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Thanks to Becky for translating the article.